A National Anthem, the Radio Times; Michaelmas, a new film studio and brothers with VCs; a sporting Saturday, the Ryder Cup and the Feast Day of St Francis of Assisi

Tuesday 28th September 1745: Technically speaking England has no official national anthem. The first published version of what is almost the present tune appeared in 1694 in Thesaurus Musicus. That manuscript has the tune departing from that used today at several points but it is clearly a strong relative of the contemporary anthem. The Anthem ‘God save the King’ as we know it had its first public performance on this day at London’s Theatre Royal in Drury Lane following the defeat of King George II’s army by the Jacobites at Prestonpans on 21st September 1745. In the time of Queen Victoria all 5 verses were sung to “God Save The Queen”. Now the first verse is typically the only one sung, even at official occasions although, on comparatively rare occasions, the third verse is also sung.

Friday 28th September 1923 was the day that the Radio Times, price 2d, was first published. It had all began in that spring when John Reith, the BBC’s first Director General, had received an ultimatum from the Newspaper Publishers Association that warned/threatened him that ‘unless the Corporation paid a significant fee, none of its NPA members would carry radio programme listings.’ The threat was soon withdrawn but it was there long enough for Reith to think through an idea for the corporation to publish its own listings magazine. He came to a joint agreement with George Newnes Ltd., and the first edition of ‘The Radio Times’ – the official organ of the BBC – appeared on the news-stands on this day.

29th September is St Michael’s Day – Michaelmas. It is one of the four days of the year on which quarterly rents are/were traditionally paid. For many it was also the day when Goose would be served for dinner. It was thought that eating goose on St Michael’s Day would bring financial prosperity in the year to come. The geese were fattened for the table by allowing them to glean fallen grain on the stubble fields after the harvest – and are often referred to in past-times as a “stubble-goose”.
Allegedly this tradition stems back to the practice of giving one’s Landlord a goose as a gift on this rent day – either in lieu of money or to keep him at ease with you.
In 1575 George Gascoigne wrote ‘The Posies of George Gascoigne’ which includes:

And when the tenants come to pay their quarter’s rent,
They bring some fowl at Midsummer, a dish of fish in Lent,
At Christmas a Capon, at Michael a goose,
And somewhat else at New-year’s tide, for fear their lease flies loose.

There is another perk if you are interested: by tradition one may sleep late on St Michael’s Day! The tradition says that ‘Nature requires five, Custom gives seven; Laziness takes nine, and Michaelmas eleven.’
PS: There is a local link for some readers of these blogs: Most of Gascoigne’s works were published during the last years of his life. He died 7 October 1577 at Walcot Hall, Barnack, near Stamford, where he was the guest of George Whetstone and was buried in the Whetstone family vault at St John the Baptist’s Church, Barnack.

Wednesday 30th September 1936 saw the Gloucestershire Echo, along with quite a few other newspapers, reporting that: ‘A beautiful new film centre was officially opened near London today in the presence of about a thousand people connected with art and the film industry. The centre in question is the Pinewood Studios in Iver Heath, Bucks, which, to date, have cost half a million pounds, and are still to be developed. One of the most interesting features is the first all-mains recording system of its type in Europe, but the studios have many other unusual features besides. Adjoining is the fine Pinewood Country Club, in which yesterday’s guests were entertained.’
The site had been bought and developed by a builder – Charles Boot – in partnership with J Arthur Rank at a cost of around £1 million with the aim of creating a British competitor to Hollywood. The first film made entirely at Pinewood was ‘Talk of the Devil’ – directed by Carol Reed and released in 1936. It tells the story of a dishonest shipbuilder who plans to frame his half-brother for his own criminal activities.

Sunday 1st October 1916: Over the next four years we shall hear many stories of outstanding bravery and sacrifice. However, there will be many stories that won’t be all over the newspapers and television; stories of incredible bravery and self-sacrifice of ‘ordinary people’ who risked, and in many cases lost, their lives to save or protect others. It was on this day that Lieutenant Colonel Roland Boys Bradford MC (In February 1915 – then a Lieutenant – he was awarded the newly-created Military Cross for ‘services rendered in connection with operations in the field’) of the 9th Battalion, Durham Light Infantry earned a VC for his actions in securing the flank of his division during an attack on the Somme at Eaucourt l’Abbaye, France. His citation explains:
A leading Battalion having suffered very severe casualties, and the Commander wounded, its flank became dangerously exposed at close quarters to the enemy. Raked by machine-gun fire, the situation of the Battalion was critical. At the request of the wounded Commander, Lieutenant Colonel Bradford asked permission to command the exposed Battalion in addition to his own. Permission granted, he at once proceeded to the foremost lines. By his fearless energy under fire of all description, and his skilful leadership of the two Battalions, regardless of all danger, he succeeded in rallying the attack, captured and defended the objective, and so secured the flank.
Recognised as an outstanding commander he was promoted to the rank of Brigadier on 20th November 1917. He was 25 and the youngest general officer in the British Army. Ten days later – on 30th November 1917 – he was killed at Cambrai.
His brother, Lieutenant Commander George Nicholson Bradford, was posthumously awarded a Victoria Cross for his actions during a British naval raid on Zeebrugge in April 1918. Roland and George are the only pair of brothers to each be awarded a Victoria Cross during the First World War. You will find a more detailed – and fascinating – story of the whole family on http://www.thebradfordbrothersofwittonpark.org.uk

Saturday 2nd October 1909: Monday’s Nottingham Evening Post reports, in three consecutive paragraphs, on three very different events that took place on this Saturday:
The first tells the readers that: ‘There was a large attendance at the Jubilee Grounds, Pilsley, Derbyshire on Saturday, when a rabbit coursing leger for dogs of the snap species (now called Whippets) took place. There were 24 entries. In the semi-final ‘Wantling’s Patchwork’ beat ‘Banker’s Bet’ while ‘Bolous’s Doctor’ drew the bye. In the final ‘Patchwork’ beat ‘Doctor.’
The second paragraph records that: ‘After several postponements, the Rugby Union’s new ground at Twickenham was opened on Saturday. The Harlequin Club, the first regular tenants of the ground, played their initial home match of the season with Richmond, who were defeated after a stirring game by 1 goal and three tries (14 points) to 2 goals (10 points).’
The third reports that ‘The annual team competition for the Lincoln Angling Association Challenge Cup was fished in the Fossdyke, near the racecourse, on Saturday. Eighteen teams of four took part. Mr. S. Parkin’s second team secured the heaviest catch with 4lb 0½oz, the Lincoln Constitutional Club being second with 3lb 11¾oz and the Lincoln Liberal Club third with 2lb 11oz.’
Three sports of the time, in three different counties on the same day, being reported in a fourth county’s county town – can you imagine that now?

Tuesday 3rd October 1989 saw the death of Aubrey Basil Boomer – the last surviving member of the Great Britain & Ireland Ryder Cup golf team which had contested the first Ryder Cup match held against the Americans in 1927. There had been competitions between the two countries since 1921 but this was the first where the ‘Ryder Cup’ was awarded. Aubrey Boomer had become interested in golf when he watched the six-times Open Champion Harry Vardon playing in Jersey during the First World War. After the war he developed his golfing career in France. In England golf professionals were employed by clubs as low-paid servants while across the Channel they were regarded as social equals of the members they served, by virtue of their skill at the game. In France he became the favourite professional of the rich who visited Paris. One was Sir Philip Sassoon who rewarded him by having suits made up for him at Saville Row. This ‘status’ appears to have upset the petty-minded officialdom that then ran the British professional game so much that, when Aubrey Boomer was chosen for the 1927 Ryder Cup match against America in America, he was picked up at Cherbourg on route, and made to wear what every Frenchman was supposed to wear – a beret!
That sea crossing took almost a week. Many of the team were sea-sick, and practice was poor to non-existent for those that could cope with the conditions because they found that they had to practice their swings in time with the roll of the boat! Not surprisingly the team lost nine-and-a half to two-and-a-half. Aubrey won his foursomes but lost his singles match.
He was picked again for the 1929 contest at Moor Town near Leeds and was made vice-captain. This time he lost his foursome but won his singles – and Britain won the match. That was the last time he played for Great Britain – not because his skill declined but because the ‘powers-that-be’ decided that professionals who resided and worked outside Britain, although they qualified by birth, were now ineligible to play for their country. Aubrey was not the only loss to Britain due to this rule. In 1933 Henry Cotton had taken a job in Belgium and was missing for two Ryder Cup contests when he was at the peak of his powers.

4th October is the Feast Day of St Francis of Assisi – the founder of the Franciscan order of Mendicant Friars. His prayer obviously has a Christian origin but, to me, it underpins how life should be. It reads:

‘Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy.’

Start it where you will; to me, it needs no religious bias – it simply provides a good under-pinning of how life can be lived.

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