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Secrets of the Drawing Office (2)

This is the second part of an account by Pickle S. Finkerbury - railway historian and time traveller - describing certain key events in the evolution of GWR wagon brakes at the turn of the last century. Part one is here

 

Just as the bewildered L.R. Thomas was about to regain composure, an elegantly dressed man approached them. It was none other than...
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…George Jackson Churchward, at this time the Chief Assistant to William Dean at Swindon Works. 

 

 

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 'Ah, Thomas’ said Churchward, ‘I see that you are entertaining yet another young lady with your brake design. Have you also informed her that it is in fact rather impractical to operate, and has never been widely applied on our railway?’

 

 

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With a sly wink at Miss Havisham, Churchward continued: 'Now if I may, Miss Havisham, I think that you had better come with me. There are certain things I would like to discuss with you in private'.

 

 

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And with that, Churchward directed Miss Havisham firmly away. 

 

 

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Thomas remained behind, alone and humiliated. How he hated Churchward! So confident, so charming, so progressive. And such a genius, an undeniable genius. And now he had gone off with Miss Havisham. It all seemed so unfair!
 
 

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Then a voice called out from the shadows. 

 

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It was the Great Man himself: William Dean, Chief Locomotive Engineer of the GWR. 

  

 

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Speaking softly, Dean said: 'Thomas, walk with me a little, will you?'

 

 

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As they strolled around the yard, Dean said: 'I know how you feel, Thomas. That painful realization that one has been surpassed by someone younger and brighter. It happened to me the first time I met Churchward. He was only 19, but I knew immediately that he would eclipse me one day. I have come to accept it. Indeed, I have made it my special mission to harness new talent, rather than fight it. Speaking of which…'

 

 

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Dean hesitated a moment, then went on: 'Thomas, it is time I confided in you. That young lady, Miss Havisham, she is not the first of her gender to display a talent for engineering. Yet we obviously cannot employ women as proper engineers! To do so would damage the reputation of our great company, and make it impossible to get anything approved by the Board.'

 


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Pausing to shudder at the thought of the Board, Dean continued: 'So Churchward and I have devised a little, ahem, working arrangement. Churchward recruits the most talented young ladies and employs them as clerks, secretaries and tracers. But in reality they spend most of their time supplying us with ideas and inspiration, which we then put to good use in our designs.' 

 

 

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Thomas, finding it all rather hard to believe, exclaimed: 'So Churchward is now in the process of recruiting Miss Havisham?'

 

 

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'Well, ah, not quite', said Dean, 'Miss Havisham has actually been working with us for some time, developing our new wagon brake design. The design that will replace your own, er, valiant effort. We have great hopes for her. So far we have mainly employed these talented women in locomotive development, but we have plans to roll out their skills in the Wagon & Carriage Department too. Assuming of course that you, as Manager of that department, agree?'

 

 

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Thomas hesitated. When Dean saw this, his voice became suddenly icy: 'I can assure you, Thomas, that this arrangement is proving to be very productive for the company. And we must always consider the interests of the company before our own, must we not?'

 

 

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And with that, Dean walked away.

 

 

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For a moment, Thomas felt utterly lost and abandoned, sensing the advent of a new world that he did not understand, and which did not seem to need him.

 

 

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Then the clouds parted, the saddle tank whistled, and Miss Havisham appeared in a burst of steam.  

 

 

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She looked straight at him, smiled, and said: ‘Thomas, we are leaving. Will you join us?’. 

 

 

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And he saw in her eyes a thousand ideas and all possible futures imaginable. He forgot the jealousy and the craving for recognition, and realized what could be achieved if they worked together. He saw the furnaces burning, the blacksmiths sweating and the shining steel of a million well-oiled wagon brakes. And he said :'Yes, I am coming, it is time to move on!'

 

*****

 

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So there you have it, Ladies and Gentlemen. Thanks to my impeccable research, you now know the true story of a critical moment in the evolution of GWR wagon brakes. A few further notes are in order:

 

 

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In December 1902, Dean and Churchward patented a wagon brake which soon became widespread across the GWR wagon fleet. It has since become known as the DC1 brake, but the real designer was of course Estella Havisham - seen here with her creation. She remained in her clandestine position at Swindon Works for the rest of her career, and went on to develop many other innovative designs for the company.

 

 

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The fate of L.R. Thomas is less clear, but it is known that he vigorously implemented Estella Havisham’s ideas for the remaining period of his time at Swindon. Their relationship seems to have remained strictly platonic. Rumour has it that he retired early, moved to India, grew a three foot long beard and became the first European to teach the Karma yoga, a principle of selfless action.

 

 

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Meanwhile, Dean and Churchward’s scheme went from strength to strength. Over the years, dozens of women were employed as de facto engineers at Swindon, developing one innovative design after the other. Like so many of those who work in the shadows, they remained unknown - but helped change the world. 

 

 

Mikkel’s PS: 

For those who think this sounds too fantastic to be true, I offer the following: 

  • Firstly, consider Olive Dennis, a female engineer on the Baltimore & Ohio, whose story has certain similarities with that of Estella Havisham.
  • Secondly, there is this photo, posted on Twitter by STEAM. Officially it shows the “Mileage Office” at Swindon Works, but note the stamp… 

 

 

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Well done Mikkel.  another interesting tale, complete with real photographic evidence!

 

Are these figures modified?  I do not recognise Churchward and Dean.  (No!  You have been fooled, it is not Dean, it's Stroudley!  Obviously has some devious plan that has fooled Finkerury.)   Think I recognise Churchward as well.

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Stroudley who? :jester:

 

Thanks Chris. No, Churchward and Dean aren't modified. I selected them directly from my collection of Stadden figures, looking for look-a-likes. Here is Churchward in 1918, now with glasses and slightly annoyed by all the mediocrity around him.

 

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And here is Dean. He died in 1905 and was not well during the last years of his life, but I didn't want to make him look too poorly. 

 

deana.jpg.65d56c9aaa24a91c4f2a983014069fa3.jpg

 

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They do say “behind every great man there is a great women”

perhaps the expression is the wrong way round!

 

Excellent story though Mikkel , we’ll be having lady Prime Ministers next!:D

 

 

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Brilliant Mikkel, quite brilliant.  Your story telling ability knows no bounds :rolleyes:

Ian

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It’s nice to know that you’re championing the cause for the fair sex in railway engineering. What I’m looking forward to seeing is Mr Finkleburys report on the strange assemblage that happened when Churchward got two Belgians, a Frenchman, a German, and an American together to show him how to design a new 4-6-0. Did he get Miss Havishams advice on what colour of green it should be painted from the swatch supplied by Messrs. Hornby, whisper it, but people do say she got it wrong.

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Nice job on Churchward.  Photos of Dean seem a bit few and far between on line. Did you get the forked beard?

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Excellent Mikkel. You should warn that Churchward chap to be more careful when wandering around on the track though. It could be the death of him.

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Super, super, super story telling as per usual.  Beautiful photography and figures too.  Love the cloud of steam shot.

 

I’m from that generation that has also found it slightly hard to adjust.  Especially for someone who was involved in the rough and tough civil engineering world for most of his life.  Yet, I’ve been constantly surprised by the capabilities of women when they’ve been given a chance to prove themselves.  Take the Women’s football cup final matches; they put the men to shame with the quality of play. I’ve really enjoyed the World Cup tournament.  For once it has reminded me of the sort of football I grew up with; no grandstanding, no prima donnas and no pampered pouches.  Just great football and bags of fair play.  Given that there are no special concessions like smaller pitches the women run, head, tackle and pass just like the blokes for the full 90 mins.  The American v England match was really hard fought and had me on the end of my seat.  The quality of the goal scoring was outstanding.  In fact I’d love to see a match between the sexes. Bet it’d be a close run thing.

 

Just wish more women would get a bit more involved with our hobby.

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Great 2-part story..... with more than the ring of truth about it,,,

 

Gilbert expressed it rather well...( The Gondoliers )

 

"Search in and out and roundabout

and you'll discover never

a tale more free from any doubt

no probable, possible shadow of doubt

no possible doubt whatever"

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Edwardian

Posted (edited)

Another bravura effort, which has made pleasurable breakfast reading this morning. Beautifully observed, modelled, composed and photographed as usual. 

 

EDIT: Having just seen Don's post, one might add of Mikkel and his time travelling alter ego:

 

We know him well
He cannot tell
Untrue or groundless tales —
He always tries
To utter lies
And every time he fails

 

...

 

And in this case
It all took place
Exactly as he says!
Exactly, exactly, exactly
Exactly as he says!

 

Edited by Edwardian
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Mikkel

Posted (edited)

Thanks all, good to see the conspiracy theories now flourishing :D  Excellent operetta lines too. Can't say I know that genre well - but I can see the connection to Farthing!

 

I've watched a bit of the world cup too. Oddly enough it was my wife who made the silly jokes about women's football! Old habits die hard I suppose. 

 

19 hours ago, JimC said:

Nice job on Churchward.  Photos of Dean seem a bit few and far between on line. Did you get the forked beard?

 

Jim, it never occurred to me that I could have recreated Dean's split beard. An obvious opportunity lost! Incidentally, there's a photo from his younger days here.

 

Edited by Mikkel
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Mikkel

Posted (edited)

21 hours ago, wenlock said:

They do say “behind every great man there is a great women”

perhaps the expression is the wrong way round!

 

Excellent story though Mikkel , we’ll be having lady Prime Ministers next! :D

 

We have a new one just elected, that makes two, like the UK. Rumour has it the opposition here are looking around for male candidates with funny hair, as they seem to be popular.

 

20 hours ago, Ian Smith said:

Brilliant Mikkel, quite brilliant.  Your story telling ability knows no bounds :rolleyes:

Ian

 

Thanks Ian. I noticed that figures have appeared on Modbury. How about a 2mm scale William Dean to go with the Buffalo? :D 

 

19 hours ago, Northroader said:

It’s nice to know that you’re championing the cause for the fair sex in railway engineering. What I’m looking forward to seeing is Mr Finkleburys report on the strange assemblage that happened when Churchward got two Belgians, a Frenchman, a German, and an American together to show him how to design a new 4-6-0. Did he get Miss Havishams advice on what colour of green it should be painted from the swatch supplied by Messrs. Hornby, whisper it, but people do say she got it wrong.

 

Aha, the plot thickens! I'm glad she got the colour wrong though... As for Churchward's much touted "American influence": Word has it that Miss Havisham corresponded eagerly with the aforementioned Olive Dennis of the Baltimore & Ohio (whose designs were also signed over to the company without her name appearing). 

 

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Mikkel

Posted (edited)

 

19 hours ago, D869 said:

Excellent Mikkel. You should warn that Churchward chap to be more careful when wandering around on the track though. It could be the death of him.

 

Crafty :). In fairness to Churchward, he seems to have acted very galantly in his relationship with Dean. I don't think he ever said anything in public about his role in many of Dean's latter day designs? Although we mustn't underestimate Dean either, I think. As Jeremy Clements says in "Dean, Greatest of Them All", he deserves much more credit than he sometimes gets.

 

18 hours ago, PaternosterRow said:

Super, super, super story telling as per usual.  Beautiful photography and figures too.  Love the cloud of steam shot.

 

I’m from that generation that has also found it slightly hard to adjust.  Especially for someone who was involved in the rough and tough civil engineering world for most of his life.  Yet, I’ve been constantly surprised by the capabilities of women when they’ve been given a chance to prove themselves.  Take the Women’s football cup final matches; they put the men to shame with the quality of play. I’ve really enjoyed the World Cup tournament.  For once it has reminded me of the sort of football I grew up with; no grandstanding, no prima donnas and no pampered pouches.  Just great football and bags of fair play.  Given that there are no special concessions like smaller pitches the women run, head, tackle and pass just like the blokes for the full 90 mins.  The American v England match was really hard fought and had me on the end of my seat.  The quality of the goal scoring was outstanding.  In fact I’d love to see a match between the sexes. Bet it’d be a close run thing.

 

Just wish more women would get a bit more involved with our hobby.

 

Thanks Mike. I originally wanted to make the cloud of steam entirely without photoshop effects - so it is actually a ball of cotton wool. But in close-up it looked like exactly that! So the edges were blurred with my photo editing software.

 

I too am finding it a bit hard to adjust. I try to remind myself it's the way of the world but that can also be a bit defeatist at times. So L.R. Thomas has my sympathies, also when it comes to things like the unpleasant realization that some young know-it-all is in fact smarter than you!

 

Here is a photo believed to show L.R. Thomas after he migrated to Kashmir and became a well-known guru.

 

740511867_LRThomas.gif.fc0f6360f798686043c3f78b07ed0475.gif

 

9 hours ago, DonB said:

Great 2-part story..... with more than the ring of truth about it,,,

 

Gilbert expressed it rather well...( The Gondoliers )

 

"Search in and out and roundabout

and you'll discover never

a tale more free from any doubt

no probable, possible shadow of doubt

no possible doubt whatever"

 

9 hours ago, Edwardian said:

Another bravura effort, which has made pleasurable breakfast reading this morning. Beautifully observed, modelled, composed and photographed as usual. 

 

EDIT: Having just seen Don's post, one might add of Mikkel and his time travelling alter ego:

 

We know him well
He cannot tell
Untrue or groundless tales —
He always tries
To utter lies
And every time he fails

 

...

 

And in this case
It all took place
Exactly as he says!
Exactly, exactly, exactly
Exactly as he says!

 

 

Now had time to look more into this. Great stuff!

 

Her terrible tale
You can't assail,
With truth it quite agrees:
Her taste exact
For faultless fact
Amounts to a disease.

 

Edited by Mikkel
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Smarter they often are, but not necessarily wiser.  Only age can bring that edge.  Unfortunately, the young never quite get that.  Oh, the way of the world indeed.  Each generation wants to build its own set of wheels, yet they always end up using the same old spokes!  Does this, I sometimes wonder, mean that our species is ultimately doomed, or, will we always somehow manage to scrape through?

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Another insightful post, Mikkel.  It's good to be reminded about those remarkable ladies who were making their mark in scientific and technical fields during the 19th century. 

 

Two of my favourite examples are Ada Lovelace (1815-1852), widely consider to have been the first computer programmer in her work with Babbage, and Marianne North (1830-1890), who travelled around the world painting from nature.  Her remarkable collection is now displayed in its own gallery at Kew Gardens.  Of course, there were many others whose talents were hidden behind their husband's - a prime example being the composer, Fanny Mendelssohn.

 

Am I alone in detecting a female touch in the aesthetic modifications to the early Churchward designs, attributed to Harry Holcroft? - a subject for you to research, Mikkel.

 

Many talented women were undoubtedly suppressed.  You may remember my reference to Amy Wilcote where I wrote "Indeed, she has been reported as expressing outlandish views, such as wishing to study engineering. History does not record how Sir John responded to such bizarre suggestions!"  We have a pretty good idea, since I also recorded, later, that she eloped to Italy with an artist.  Perhaps her legacy can be seen in the beautiful styling of many Italian automobiles?

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1 hour ago, Mikkel said:

 

 

Crafty :). In fairness to Churchward, he seems to have acted very galantly in his relationship with Dean. I don't think he ever said anything in public about his role in many of Dean's latter day designs? Although we mustn't underestimate Dean either, I think. As Jeremy Clements says in "Dean, Greatest of Them All", he deserves much more credit than he sometimes gets.

 

 

Thanks Mike. I originally wanted to make the cloud of steam entirely without photoshop effects - so it is actually a ball of cotton wool. But in close-up it looked like exactly that! So the edges were blurred with my photo editing software.

 

I too am finding it a bit hard to adjust. I try to remind myself it's the way of the world but that can also be a bit defeatist at times. So L.R. Thomas has my sympathies, also when it comes to things like the unpleasant realization that some young know-it-all is in fact smarter than you!

 

Here is a photo believed to show L.R. Thomas after he migrated to Kashmir and became a well-known guru.

 

740511867_LRThomas.gif.fc0f6360f798686043c3f78b07ed0475.gif

 

 

 

Now had time to look more into this. Great stuff!

 

Her terrible tale
You can't assail,
With truth it quite agrees:
Her taste exact
For faultless fact
Amounts to a disease.

 

 

Gilbert and Sullivan is a satirical gold mine. It's nowadays considered terribly old hat and the preserve of middle-brow am-drams, but it's actually extremely witty and effective satire, but never too crude or cruel.  Even the music is funny and, often as not, satirising 'serious music', like Italian Grand Opera. 

 

If you're prepared to get to know it, it's a very funny take on 'pre-Grouping' society and culture.  

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Too fantastic to be true? Nah.

 

In a different engineering discipline, we may not have landed on the moon if it wasn't for some of the women of NASA.

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14 hours ago, PaternosterRow said:

Smarter they often are, but not necessarily wiser.  Only age can bring that edge.  Unfortunately, the young never quite get that.  Oh, the way of the world indeed.  Each generation wants to build its own set of wheels, yet they always end up using the same old spokes!  Does this, I sometimes wonder, mean that our species is ultimately doomed, or, will we always somehow manage to scrape through?

 

I agree that experience is very important - but I think it's probably good that the young don't realize that, or they would lose their carefree confidence :) 

 

It's a funny thing, experience. A colleague and I faced a work problem some years ago and were in complete agreement about the solution. It turned out we were right. Afterwards someone asked: But how did you know this was the solution? We looked at each other and had no idea! Only afterwards over a beer did we realize how: It was our experience.

 

 

14 hours ago, MikeOxon said:

Am I alone in detecting a female touch in the aesthetic modifications to the early Churchward designs, attributed to Harry Holcroft? - a subject for you to research, Mikkel.

 

Yes of course - it's all clear now! It was Miss Havisham who saved us from any more of this:

 

image.png.3e0535f6864376eed5c9893d76a53663.png

 

 

14 hours ago, MikeOxon said:

Many talented women were undoubtedly suppressed.  You may remember my reference to Amy Wilcote where I wrote "Indeed, she has been reported as expressing outlandish views, such as wishing to study engineering. History does not record how Sir John responded to such bizarre suggestions!"  We have a pretty good idea, since I also recorded, later, that she eloped to Italy with an artist.  Perhaps her legacy can be seen in the beautiful styling of many Italian automobiles?

 

And so another piece in the jigsaw emerges! And in Italy of all places :lol: 

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13 hours ago, Edwardian said:

 

Gilbert and Sullivan is a satirical gold mine. It's nowadays considered terribly old hat and the preserve of middle-brow am-drams, but it's actually extremely witty and effective satire, but never too crude or cruel.  Even the music is funny and, often as not, satirising 'serious music', like Italian Grand Opera. 

 

If you're prepared to get to know it, it's a very funny take on 'pre-Grouping' society and culture.  

 

Sounds like good advice, I will take it! I have long thought it would be interesting to illustrate a railway poem with layout photos - but this sounds more fun...

 

9 hours ago, 57xx said:

Too fantastic to be true? Nah.

 

In a different engineering discipline, we may not have landed on the moon if it wasn't for some of the women of NASA.

 

Quite a list. Mary Jackson's story sounds particularly impressive.

 

 

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What a fab read to start the weekend :yes: 

 

Another great blog entry Mikkel and the photographs are superb too :good:

 

Do you make a storyboard first and work out what pictures are required to make the story? I use storyboards a lot when planning presentations or drawings required to meet programme deliverables and find them invaluable.

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4 hours ago, Mikkel said:

Quite a list. Mary Jackson's story sounds particularly impressive.

 

Every time you hear/see a story about the "1202" alarm, think of Margaret Hamilton who wrote that error procedure to keep the computer running when it would otherwise have crashed (shortly followed by the LEM).

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Brilliant! Though apropos of the "overseas" influences on Churchward, it should be noted that one of those often cited was from a well-known Sydenham family; his sister would have got on well with Miss Havisham, I suspect, being a graduate of London University and a proponent of women's rights in the workplace, though she did wind up as the wife of a bishop. There were other brothers who dabbled in the fine arts and French narrow-gauge railways.

 

As to that Mileage Office photo, it looks suspiciously like eyeing up the talent...

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11 hours ago, bcnPete said:

What a fab read to start the weekend :yes: 

 

Another great blog entry Mikkel and the photographs are superb too :good:

 

Do you make a storyboard first and work out what pictures are required to make the story? I use storyboards a lot when planning presentations or drawings required to meet programme deliverables and find them invaluable.

 

Hi Pete, and thanks. Sometimes it's just layout shots with captions added afterwards, but with the longer stories like this one the idea and words came first - quite a while ago in this case, as I had to paint the figures first. Then I work out in broad terms what photos are needed. So yes, there's a storyboard of sorts, although the story tends to change along the way :)

 

7 hours ago, 57xx said:

 

Every time you hear/see a story about the "1202" alarm, think of Margaret Hamilton who wrote that error procedure to keep the computer running when it would otherwise have crashed (shortly followed by the LEM).

 

That led me to further reading, thanks. There's an interview with her here: https://www.dwb.io/blog/2017/8/15/qa-margaret-hamilton-who-landed-the-first-man-and-first-code-on-themoon

 

 

4 hours ago, Compound2632 said:

Brilliant! Though apropos of the "overseas" influences on Churchward, it should be noted that one of those often cited was from a well-known Sydenham family; his sister would have got on well with Miss Havisham, I suspect, being a graduate of London University and a proponent of women's rights in the workplace, though she did wind up as the wife of a bishop. There were other brothers who dabbled in the fine arts and French narrow-gauge railways.

 

As to that Mileage Office photo, it looks suspiciously like eyeing up the talent...

 

Thanks Stephen. It took a while before the penny dropped regarding that Sydenham family! How interesting that De Glehn had a sister who was a women's rights activist, the plot is now thicker than pea soup :lol:  The Ladies Dining Society that she helped establish sounds interesting too!

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On 05/07/2019 at 19:36, Edwardian said:

 

Gilbert and Sullivan is a satirical gold mine. It's nowadays considered terribly old hat and the preserve of middle-brow am-drams, but it's actually extremely witty and effective satire, but never too crude or cruel.  Even the music is funny and, often as not, satirising 'serious music', like Italian Grand Opera. 

 

If you're prepared to get to know it, it's a very funny take on 'pre-Grouping' society and culture.  

 

Some years ago I was a member of a G&S am-dram group. We displayed our meagre talents on stage at the local Methodist  church hall. 

One year we were within a month of staging G&S's  " The Sorcerer",  when a new , officious Minister was appointed who promptly banned the work as being  "Heathen and unsuitable for the venue"  (but not, apparently,  "old hat".)

I agree that the operettas are funny, and are great fun to produce and participate in. 

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Mikkel

Posted (edited)

For a moment there I thought you meant a Cabinet Minister!  Anyway, having now read a brief synopsis of the Sorcerer, I would have thought it offered many opportunities for your minister to forward the message of Christ. Everyone falling in love with the first person they meet!

 

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