Archive by Author | colindunkerley

8th October 2008. Credit-Crunch.

No longer can one say: ‘I‘m with the Woolwich’(1980s TV ad), see the Abbey umbrella or the bowler hats of Bradford and Bingley, as the companies disappeared as a result of the 2008 financial debacle.

Today on 8th October 2008 it was announced that part-nationalisation of certain banks such as Lloyds and Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) would take place as their viability was in doubt.

It was all part of the government rescue package which included £250 billion to banks in the form of  bonds and other forms of debt. There was also £200 billion in a special liquidity scheme.

£25 billion was pledged if further capital was required and £25 billion of immediate capital injection with the taxpayer becoming a Preference Shareholder in some banks and building societies.

RBS, Northern Rock and Bradford and Bingley were nationalised after a world-wide financial collapse which saw American Banks, Lehmann Bros., and American Mutual go bust and Halifax Bank of Scotland (HBOS) taken over by Lloyds.

The profitable business of Bradford & Bingley, Alliance & Leicester and Abbey (founded by Baptists in 1874 in Abbey Road, London), became part of, and renamed, Santander.

HBOS (which included the old Halifax B.S.) foundered and was taken over by Lloyds Bank, a sad end for a once illustrious early Society which started in the Old Cock Inn, Halifax in December 1852 when the locals discussed the establishment of an Investment and Loan Society to aid mill-workers to build homes and anyone with spare cash could invest and others borrow.


In the new Millennium there were still dozens of small Building Societies: The Newbury, West Bromwich (in trouble in 2009), Bath, Barnsley, Tipton and Coseley, and Earl Shilton and the Stafford Railway B.S. The smallest in the UK regarding assets with one branch being the Edinburgh Century BS.

In 2008 the five largest Building Societies were according to the British Bankers’ Association and Building Societies Association, according to Group Assets: Nationwide (which merged with Portman and in 2008 took over the Cheshire and Derbyshire), Britannia which combined with the Co-op financial services in 2009;  Yorkshire; Coventry and Chelsea.



7th October 1932. Battle of the Orchestras.

First Programme of the LPO. 1932..

The London Philharmonic (LPO) is one of five permanent orchestras in London and it was Today in 1932 at the Queen’s Hall, after 12 rehearsals, that saw the Orchestra’s first performance.

Sir Thomas Beecham.

The aim of the founders was to create an orchestra to rival the London Symphony Orchestra (LSO) and The BBC Symphony and build an ensemble to match the top American and German Orchestras, which up to WWII it succeeded.

The LSO had been founded back in 1904 when fifty players were to break from Henry Wood’s, Queen’s Hall Orchestra over its rule to only employ musicians on exclusive contracts, on what they called, ‘something akin to a musical republic’,  with the rebels being dedicated to maintaining the players’ freedom to come and go as they please, which included sending substitutes.

The LSO, 8 years later were lucky to survive in 1912 when they changed a booking and so avoided the calamity of the Titanic sinking.

With Richter and Elgar the LSO flourished only to run into trouble in the 1920s with the competition from the new radio output as well as orchestras such as the Queen’s Hall,  and what was known at the time as the BBC Wireless Orchestra.

All except the Queen’s Hall employed players on an ad hoc basis but none approached the level of playing as the foreign orchestras, revealed in 1927 when the Berlin Philharmonic under Furtwangler performed two concerts at the Queen’s Hall.(1)

Queen’s Hall 1912.

These were performances so to inspire that the music critic of The Times reported, ‘that the British public were electrified when they heard the discipline and precision of the orchestra…’

Thus it was the next year that John Reith of the BBC and Thomas Beecham decided to set up an ensemble to meet this competition, but negotiations fell down when the autocratic Beecham wanted more control than Reith would cede; so the BBC set up its own Symphony Orchestra under Adrian Boult.

In 1931 Beecham was approached by the young Malcolm Sargeant to set-up a permanent salaried orchestra which was to be subsidised by Sargeant’s patron the Courtauld, textile family.

The original intention was to reshuffle the LSO, but the self-governing orchestra refused to weed out its under-performers, Beecham and Sargeant lost patience and founded their own orchestra, the London Philharmonic, backed by Sam Courtauld, Sir Robert Mayer and Baron d’Erlanger which soon gained acclaim and recording contracts including that to play at Mayer’s Children’s Concerts at Covent Garden.

After the outbreak of war, however, private backers pulled out and the LPO reconstituted itself as a self-governing body. In the meantime Beecham had left, but returned to the LPO in 1944, but offered only terms as a salaried employee, unlikely to be accepted by Beecham.

Two years later he founded the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. (RPO), which still flourishes.

(1) The Queen’s Hall was bombed in May 1941, destroying all the instruments.




6th October 1732. Calculating Longitude.

Of great navigational concern in the 18th century was calculating longitude at sea and one to be closely associated with this was the 5th Astronomer Royal, Nevil Maskelyne FRS born Today in 1732.

Previously Isaac Newton knew that his theories had failed to find the motions of the moon well enough for finding Longitude accurately, a flaw which was to stimulate some of the finest 18thc minds.

Maskelyne enters the story when asked by the Admiralty to journey to S. Helena to record the Transit of Venus and used the voyage to test ideas on calculating longitude by reference to the variable distances between the earth and the moon, ideas which had been instigated by a German called Mayer.

On his arrival back in England Maskelyne was able to report that his longitude reckoning by ‘Lunars’ was only 1 ½ degrees in error compared with 10 degrees from the traditional ‘dead reckoning’.

Being a clergyman, Maskelyne continued as a curate at Chipping Barnet, in 1761, and became an ardent advocate of calculating ‘Lunars’ (lunar distances) to aid longitude calculation. He  provided tables to facilitate its use in the 1763 ‘British Mariners’ Guide’, backed up later with his ‘Nautical Almanac’ and ‘Astronomical Ephemeras’

In 1763 the Board of Longitude sent Maskelyne to Barbados to test the main contenders for the reward which awaited anyone who could calculate longitude, to its satisfaction. One contender was John Harrison’s chronometer, or sea watch (H4), another was the ‘Lunar Tables’ of Mayer.

Maskelyne reported the results to The Board of Longitude in February 1765 the same year he was appointed Astronomer Royal, which made him ex-officio Commissioner of Longitude.(1)

The outcome was that it was recognised that timekeeping and astronomical calculations were complementary and it was decided that on any sea voyages lunar calculations would be taken occasionally to back up Harrison’s timekeeper.

All observations were fed into the Nautical Almanac at Greenwich which now became the Meridian and a reference for Royal Navy and Admiralty Charts. However traditional methods still continued as further trials, charts and training would be rquired for many years.

Rev. Maskelyne.

Finally clockmaker John Harrison got his reward of £10,000 for his revolutionary chronometer, a colossal amount then, whilst Mayer received £5,000.

(1) He was housed in Wren’s building designed. ‘for the observation and habitation and a little for pompe’.

As Astronomer Royal in March 1765 Maskelyne left to assistants the tedious processing of observations to produce data, which included one woman, Mary Edwards.

Reference/Pics. Seamen’s Astronomer. Derek Howse. C.U.P.

5th October 2015. Scourge of Plastic.

Plastic bags became a political issue in 2008 with pressure on supermarkets to curtail their use. In 2014, 7.64 billion plastic bags were issued many to end up littering the environment.

Today in 2015 supermarkets in England, (those employing more than 250 full-time workers), began charging 5p for a plastic bag; the last UK country to so charge. (1)

There are exceptions for those plastic bags having, for example, live aquatic animals, unwrapped blades and uncooked meats.

Plastics offer versatility and flexibility and are light-weight, but in manufacture, consume fossil fuel, pollute the environment, leach by polymer migration as well as entering the food-chain through food and other additives. Large areas of the oceans thus contain fine plastics after sunlight has degraded the larger pieces.

Plastics can leach into the skin through the use of skin products containing the family Phthalate Esters ( esters or salts of Phthalic Acid) and are the most widely produced world-wide. (2)

PVCs (Polyvinyl Chloride) contain compounds which makes plastic flexible, but the downside is Vinyl floor-covering and plastic pens are constantly leaching into the environment:, so don’t suck a pen!

Now we come to plastic ‘curb side’ collection, the so-called solution the problem of plastic re-cycling. However as it only temporarily diverts or delays from ‘land-fill’ as much  reconstituted plastic is made into car bumpers and other products which can’t be re-cycled.

A Pringles crisp container contains six different plastics, most can’t be re-cycled and how would one separate each in any case.

Much plastic is bundled off abroad and goodness knows what then happens to it; out of sight out of mind.

Products previously made from natural materials such as rubber are not free from artificial polymers as tyres and elastic bands have now chemical added to increase their effectiveness.

As usual there are caveats, as the newer, thin gauge plastic bags are ‘cleaner’, per unit, to produce, regarding greenhouse gas-emissions compared with textile and paper bags. However they were made in such large quantities and not being-biodegradable, the world will be a cleaner place without them.

(1) Wales was the first in 2011.

(2) Terephthalic Acid may be reacted with the appropriate alcohol to produce Phthalate plasticizers.


References/Pics. Rebecca Smithers. 5.10.2015. Dominic Howell. 30.7.2016.

4th October 1741. Forgery Exposed.

Today in 1741 Edmond Malone was born in Dublin, then politically capital of an Ireland in the United Kingdom, and set to achieve fame as a Shakespearean scholar. He was the first to reduce the dozens of previous spellings, to Shakspeare, (without a middle ‘e’), which was to last until the modern ‘Shakespeare’.

In the 1770.s Malone was to achieve fame for his 1778 work on Shakespeare, being the first to publish; ‘A proposed chronology of Works in an attempt to ascribe the Order in which the plays of Shakespeare were written’, in his first, ‘Volume of Works of Shakespeare’.

Malone by Joshua Reynolds c 1778.

However his authority was secured, as a foremost scholar with his 1796 publication; ‘An inquiry into the authenticity of certain miscellaneous papers and legal instruments published Dec 24 MDCCXCV and attributed to Shakespeare, Queen Elizabeth and Henry earl of Southampton’.

In this work he exposed the forgeries of William-Henry Ireland who had supposedly discovered (and made public), a cache of old documents directly related the Shakespeare.

Edmund Malone published in 400 pages the reason why he considered the writings of Ireland, purporting to be by Shakespeare, and authenticated by so-called experts, to be forgeries.

Ireland had used Secretary Hand for his forgeries, a hand easier to read, but also easier to forge. Shakespeare’s will was written in this ‘Hand’, by a scribe, with Shakespeare’s indecipherable scrawl at the bottom. Ireland as Shakespeare before him, had also drawn on the work of Holinshed’s Chronicles.

The diligent Malone in 1793 also discovered the only extant letter (of 1598) sent to Shakespeare, from a Richard Quiney who was in London to request a new and more favourable Charter from the Privy Council for Stratford, after trawling through 3,000 documents.

However Malone was later criticised for instigating a practice of compiling a biography of Shakespeare from his works; he wasn’t the first, or the last, to add to the mythology of the Bard.


3rd October 2013. Polyphenols: Good or Bad?

8,000 polyphenols have been discovered.

Most of our tea comes from Sri Lanka (once Ceylon) in three varieties: black (fermented), green (unfermented) and oolong (half-fermented) and have compounds’ called Polyphenols. These contain Flavenoids said to neutralise all the ‘bad’ free radicals in the blood which causes cell damage, heart disease, strokes and harmful amounts of ‘bad’ cholesterol.

Polyphenols are a class of compounds with an alcohol bound to a hydrocarbon, the simplest being Phenol otherwise known as Carbolic Acid.

The most abundant are the Tannins found virtually in all families of plants, concentrated in leaf- tissue, tree-bark, flowers and fruit. They decompose the forest litter and are so part of the nutrient cycle. The high level of polyphenols in some woods prevents rotting.(1)

Retro chocolate bar full of polyphenols.

One who did much to elucidate our knowledge of Polyphenols was Cheshire born Edwin Haslam who died Today in 2013, with his books such as, Plant Polyphenols (1989) and Chemistry of Vegetable Tannins (1966).

Now we come to the issue of the supposed beneficial features of polyphenols, in food, and most important and advertised widely are those in products we consume in large quantities: fruit, vegetables, tea, red wine, coffee, chocolate, herbs, spices and the much publicised, by food-fads, olive oil.

This not surprisingly has led hypochondriacs to be the main customers of ‘health-food’ shops, whose bottled extracts are supposed to increase the beneficial effects, but sold with no proof as to efficacy and can be dangerous if taken inappropiately.

So dietary phytochemicals, for example the much publicised phenols, Flavonoids, though said to be Antioxidants are not without risk.

The truth is that too much of some polyphenols can be dangerous as they are antinutrients as they interfere with the absorption of vital minerals, iron and zinc.

The widespread Flavonoids including Tannins, chelate metals, (ridding the body of all metals), some of which are important for life, and so not absorbed. They also precipitate Calcium, causing kidney and gall-stones, and Proteins, and also inhibit Digestive Enzymes: Beware!


Good to Know/Pic.

2nd October 1974. Wilson’s Final Years.

Labour’s, Prime Minister, Harold Wilson assumed he would win the 1970 election backed-up as he was by the polls, but surprisingly lost to ‘Ted’ Heath who was to endure a calamitous four years with the unions.

After the February 28th 1974 election Labour was back with 301 seats and Tories with 297, but with no overall majority. Heath, trying to hang onto power, tried to cobble an agreement with Jeremy Thorpe’s Liberals, but four days later admitted defeat.(1)

Later in the year in an attempt to increase his majority after another election, Today on the 2nd October, Labour was returned with only a 3 seat majority. Wilson blamed Sir Campbell Adamson, sometime Director-General of the Confederation of British Industry, for contributing to the result, after making some off-the-cuff remarks about what he saw as the failings of Labour’s Industrial Relations Act.

However The striking miners quickly settled, at a price, with a pay rise of 22% (the following year 35%) and the country returned from the three-day week. Inflation rose from 16% to rise to 20% by the year-end. In May 1975 it was 22% and the pound had lost 25% of its value since 1971.

Wilson’s final two years coincided with two turning points in politics: the replacement of Heath by Thatcher in 1975, and the Tony Benn campaign to set Labour on the road to socialism.

Britain confirmed by referendum, in 1975, a desire to remain in Europe, after Heath had taken us in and modest social reforms helped to explode the myth that Britain was ungovernable. Also Wilson did unite the party after the infighting of his predecessor.

Why he resigned at 60, an age when Churchill was not yet Prime Minister, is speculative, though he had told his wife he would go at 60. Later it was revealed that the onset of senile-decay was responsible.

He had simply worked himself out; he sadly told his last private secretary that in the 1960s he had twenty ideas in the morning, now he had few fresh ideas and his famous memory was fading.

Wilson made pragmatism into an art form, though his technologically fuelled miracle never happened and despite many initiatives political and economic, labour lurched to the left so by 1979 under Callaghan the country was in chaos and ready to welcome Thatcherism.

(1) The Tories had more of the popular vote often a feature in British politics.