Last month President Clinton came to Yorkshire to speak at a business conference in Harrogate. Apparently his fee was £100,000 which should help fund Chelsea through Oxford. As well as addressing the great and the good, he also found time to put in a round of golf at Rudding Park and even join in a wedding celebration which was taking place there. This came as a pleasant surprise to the bride and groom and their guests and made the national news. Throughout he maintained the general bonhomie for which he is famous and he appeared relaxed and at ease with his retirement. The Inland Revenue had to decide for tax purposes whether he was a statesman or an entertainer. I would have thought that clearly he is both. Anyway they settled on statesman.
Richard Whiteley presents a parlour game show on afternoon television. In a series entitled Private Passions in the Times he wrote about Giggleswick School Chapel. Giggleswick, like Sedbergh and Ampleforth, is a highly regarded Yorkshire boarding school and Richard Whiteley is an alumnus. The Chapel, built in 1901, is unique. It has a green copper dome and is built in a strange mix of Byzantine and Gothic styles. Standing high in the Dales many think it is an observatory or a library or even a mosque. Richard says that all who attend the School end up with a deep affection for the Chapel. It was made possible because a Walter Morrison of Malham paid for it. Started in 1897, the year of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee, it cost £77,000. Now it is insured for £25 million. Over the last four years it has been refurbished so schoolboys can continue to enjoy it and visitors to the Dales will continue to puzzle over what this unusual building is.
Giggleswick School Chapel
On the subject of schools, I went to my elder son’s School’s Founders’ Day Service at Leeds Parish Church. It was excellent. Proper hymns like Jerusalem and Dear Lord and Father of Mankind, not bland modern sing-songs. An anthem by Faure. Uplifting prayers and lessons and an address by the Deputy Headmaster that was far better than most clerics would give. It made me reflect how right it is that the boys be reminded that they are part of a School and tradition which dates back to 1552 and owes its origin and development to Christian benefactors. Too many children nowadays have very little understanding and appreciation of their history, traditions, national identity and the role of Christianity in civilising this country.
Fountains Mill on the Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal Estate has been restored and is now open to the public. The mill was used for 800 years until 1927. In medieval times it ground the corn to make the flour for the monks to use for baking. For more than 70 years the building has been idle but now the waterwheel is turning once more. Although the National Trust threatens us with inter-active models and hands-on displays, visitors will now be able to see how the mill functioned in the twelfth century and subsequently. In its reincarnated form the waterwheel will drive the turbine to supply the electricity to the building. Just as it did to enable the monks to use their tumble driers and play their CDs of Handel’s Messiah.
Last month the first wooden frigate to be built for 150 years sailed into Whitby. The Grand Turk, built for the TV series Hornblower (well done, but a bit too difficult for the great British public so not a commercial success), is based on a ship Nelson knew, HMS Blandford. It was apparently quite a sight among the red roofs of Whitby and was open to the public for ten days.
There is a cautionary tale from the Yorkshire coast in this month’s Oldie magazine. It concerns Harold Bradbury, 66, ‘who thought it would be rather nice to spend three months sailing round Scotland to the Isle of Arran in an 88 year old coble called Our Freda, which he had bought for £7,000. Mr Bradbury set out from Bridlington, after a month of building up his nerve for what was to be the trip of a lifetime. When he reached Saltburn eight hours later, however, he was so exhausted that he was barely conscious. Deciding to rest, he lowered the anchor, but the tide dragged Our Freda against the pier, whose £1.3 million re-fit had been completed just hours earlier, stoving in a couple of planks and leading onlookers to call the coastguard reporting that a drunken sailor was trying to demolish it. Mr Bradbury, who has had little sailing experience, himself called the coastguard on his radio’s distress channel. Asked to switch channels, he said that this was beyond him as he couldn’t see the dials.
Four lifeboats went to his aid and found Our Freda, which had once survived a direct hit from a German bomb, badly damaged, and poor Mr Bradbury badly shaken. Sadly, this was the end of his journey’.
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