Saturday 15 August 2015

Reason to be thankful

Arthur Mee was born, son of a railway fireman, near Nottingham, England in 1875. He left school at 14 to work on the local paper and soon got himself to London working for The Daily Mail. He is notable for starting The Children's Encyclopedia which was published as a fortnightly serial between 1908 and 1910. Its purpose was to help raise patriotic, well-informed youngsters as good citizens of the Empire and was demonstrably successful. The boys who took the Encyclopedia in 1910 took the King's shilling in 1914 and thousands of them died in Flanders, Gallipoli or Mespot. From the 1930s Mee published a sort of county-by-county gazetteer of the country called The King's England.  In travelling the land to research these books he came across villages which had lost none to the slaughter of WWI; all the young chaps who had volunteered to serve came back.  Nobody mentions if they came back in one piece or had left substantial parts of their anatomy and psychic health in a rat- and louse-infested trench in France. There are worse things than dying. Waltzing Matilda if you've forgotten the words. Eventually Mee compiled a list of 50some Thankful Villages (including, appropriately, Upper Slaughter, Gloucs):

Stoke Hammond [L must be UK: note the telephone box]; Llanfihangel y Creuddyn; Herodsfoot (D); Ousby; Bradbourne; Langton Herring (D); Hunstanworth; Strethall; Colwinston; Coln Rogers; Little Sodbury; Upper Slaughter (D); Knill; Middleton-on-the-Hill (D); Puttenham; Knowlton; Arkholme; Nether Kellet (D); Saxby; East Norton; Stretton en le Field; Bigby; Flixborough (D); High Toynton (D); Minting; East Carlton; Woodend; Meldon; Cromwell; Maplebeck; Wigsley; Wysall; Herbrandston (D); Teigh; Harley; Aisholt; Chantry; Chelwood; Holywell Lake; Rodney Stoke; Shapwick; Stocklinch (D); Tellisford; Woolley (D); Butterton; Culpho; South Elmham St. Michael (D); East Wittering; Catwick (D); Cundall; Helperthorpe; Norton-le-Clay; Scruton.

Mee died in 1943 before an exact accounting could be carried out but after WWII was over, someone went through the list and identified the much shorter list of Doubly Thankful Villages marked with (D) in the list above. It should be noted that there were no civil parishes in Ireland or Scotland which made either list.  The Celtic Fringe of the United Kingdom ever and always raised cannon-fodder as a significant export.  I've highlighted the Norse toponyms in the list and they match rather well to the boundaries of Danelaw.

I was also struck by the inclusion of Flixborough in the list of Thankful Villages because I came within an ace of putting on my black shockin' disaster hat at the beginning of June to remember the Flixborough disaster which killed 28 people and seriously injured another 36 in a >!whooomph!< chemical explosion the the Nypro plant on 1st June 1974. War is a terrible thing but it's not the only place where folly and carelessness can kill people in large numbers.

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