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Tuesday 30 December 2014

Fact 51. Don Suddaby invented Lorenzo's Oil.

Don Suddaby was a comsetic chemist working for Croda International in Hull. His was only a small part in the story, but a crucial one.

Augusto Odone and his second wife Michaela had just come back from the Comoros Islands (north of Madagascar) where they had been working for the World Park and settled in Washington. In 1984 their youngest child Lorenzo, almost six, started displaying symptoms that could not be explained. Augusto and Michaela persisted and did their own research and eventually realised that he was suffering from Adrenoleukodystrophy (ALD). This is an inherited problem where the body is not able to break down very long chain fatty acids (VLCFAs) and these build up in the cells where they attack the myelin sheaf of nerves that insulate and protect them. This then leads to the deterioration of the nervous system that eventually leads to death. Little was known about the problem and there were no known cures. The severe form is only based down to males.

Augusto, Michaela and Lorenzo Odone in 1985 around the time of the diagnosis of his ALD.

Augusto and Michaela  did not accept that they would have to watch him die and though not scientists they set to to look into the disease. Their research found that there was some efforts being made in gene therapy where the hereditary defect could be repaired but this was for a long time in the future. They then looked at from preventing the VLCFAs building up in the body. They organised a conference and much of the finance for it, and found that oleic acid, a monounsaturated fatty acid that is derived from olive oil, was thought to reduce the accumulated VLCFAs. By the time of the conference Lorenzo was unable to walk and talk and had trouble swallowing so time was off the essence as he had only months to live. They managed to find a company that manufactured an edible source of Oleic acid and started testing the oil on Michaela's sister Deidre. As the ALD is hereditary they had checked family members and found her to have the gene defect and an accumulation of the VLCFAs but without the myelin loss. Following testing on her they found the fad fatty acids reduced by half and straight away started giving it to Lorenzo. This was not enough for Lorenzo so Augusto and Michaela continued research thinking that there may be another 'good' fatty acid that may be more potent than Oleic acid. They found one in erucic acid that is derived from rape seed oil. The only problem was that the majority of research had found that it was toxic to mice and rats. However a Canadian company had done research on humans and found no such toxicity and it was part of the staple diet in Indian and Eastern Europe. That was enough for them and they started looking for somebody to manufacture their oil and this is where Don Suddaby steps in.

Don had been in the Royal Navy during WWII and afterwards passed his degree in Chemistry. in 1949 he started work with Smith and Nephew on drugs to combat tuberculosis that became available world wide. He was made a Fellow of the Royal Institute of Chemistry in 1957. By 1960 he was a director of S&N Research Ltd and Managing Director in 1967. He then took early retirement to pursue a farming lifestyle. How ever in 1973, maybe due to an accident that caused a broken hip and put him in a wheelchair he accepted a position as an Analytical Chemist with Croda International Ltd. in 1973. Here he was mainly working on fish oils and had just completed this work when Lorenzo's Oil turned up.

Croda factory in Oak Road Hull.

Croda International are an East Yorkshire company that was started in 1925 by a Mr. G. CROwe and a Mr. DAwe and hence the name CRODA. They were manufacturing lanolin out sheep's wool oil. They have grown to a very large company and manufacture all over the world with the head office still in East Yorkshire. They produce cosmetic creams and lotions, dietary supplements and even a fatty acid amide that makes plastic bags in a roll easier to separate!

The last photograph of Lorenzo Odone, subject of the film Lorenzo's Oil
Lorenzo and Augusto Orone just before Lorenzo died aged 30.

The Odones contacted about 100 manufacturers to try to have their oil fabricated but as they were not either medical or scientific they were not entertained, until they came into contact with Croda's USA Office. The specification of the oil Odone required ended up on Kieth Couplands desk in Hull late 1985 early 1986. Croda were the largest producers or erucic acid in the world and Don Suddaby's work on fish oils was directly related to the high concentrations required. He agreed to help them and set to finding a solution to formulating an oil from oleic and erucic acids with Don, by now 70 years old, as the lead man. First he had to refine the products sufficiently to a 95% concentration of the active ingredients, remove long chain fatty acids and then combine them in an effective way. We worked 16 hour days, mainly at night when he wouldn't be disturbed and had use of equipment etc and in four months he had Lorenzo's oil. It was 4 parts erucic and 1 part oleic acid. The first kilo of oil cost several thousand  dollars. Again the oil was tested on Michaela's sister and miraculous results were noted as the VLCFAs disappeared from her cells.

Lorenzo was first diagnosed in 1984 aged 7 and steadily degenerated. By the time the oil was ready in 1988 he was bed ridden and was blind deaf and almost completely physically disabled and could communicate only by blinking or moving his fingers. The administration of the oil prevented any further regression and Lorenzo lived a further 19 years until he died just after his 30th birthday in 2008. His mother Michaela had died of lung cancer in 2000 and Augusto died in 2012. Lorenzo's Oil was not able to cure him but prevented progress of the disease. Being hereditary it was found that if given to young people with the gene defect before symptoms develop the ALD can largely be prevented. The Odone's were not satisfied with this and put much time and effort into setting up the Myelin Project were work is being carried out on how to repair the nerve myelin to restore the nervous system.

Lorenzo's Oil.jpg
Film poster for Lorenzo's Oil, 1992.

In 1992 a film was made of the story and was called Lorenzo's Oil. Nick Nolte played Augusto and Susan Sarandon played Michaela. Peter Ustinov was also in the film and Don Suddaby played himself. The filming of the lab scenes was done at Canary Wharf as the Croda lab was not big enough. The only photograph of Donnald Suddaby I can find is a still from the movie. It was nominated for two Oscar awards.

Don Suddaby in the film Lorenzo's Oil, 1992.

Don Suddaby died a year later in 1993 but is remembered with a street named after him, Suddaby Close. This street is found at the end of Lorenzo Way off Southcoates Avenue in East Hull.

Monday 22 December 2014

Fact 50. The first statutory Dock Company was in Hull.

The Hull Dock Company was formed in 1773 by Trinity House and a group of Hull merchants. There plan was to build the first enclosed dock in Hull and they were the first statutory dock company in the UK. The Old Harbour (River Hull) had become so  congested it was affecting trade. In 1774 an Act of Parliament was passed allowing them to raise £100,000 in shares. The company opened what was to become Queens Dock in 1778. I don't know where their first Offices were but their second offices were on Dock Office Row right next to the entrance to Queens Dock from the River Hull. They were built in 1820.

The second Hull Dock Company offices besides the River Hull and the old entrance to The Dock. When the  company trade increased they had new office constructed in 1871and this building became Oriental Chambers and accommodation for oil seed crushers and timber importers. They later house a Finish Seaman's mission. In the 70's they were a club and in the 80's a pub. After that they became part of Hull college catering department

By 1871 the Town docks were completed and further docks had been constructed to east and west of the river Hull and the trade to the port required a new substantial building to house the offices of the vast enterprise. The designer was Christopher G. Wray and was in the Italianate style with a tower at each corner. It  cost £90,000. It was a cleaver design to fit in a triangular plot at the lock between Queens and Junction Docks. They are now Grade II* Listed.

The three towerd new Dock Company Building can be seen by the bridge over the junction between the docks. The column with William Wilberforce's statue can be seen next to it. The bridge is still known as Monument Bridge. Queens dock runs up to the top of the picture. The Dock buildings were later to front on to the newly created Victoria Square that was conceived around 1900, and the Statue of Queen Victoria can be seen in the middle. The large building middle bottom with the dome is the City Hall that was started in 1903 and was in use by 1909.

Detail above the facade facing Queen Victoria Square.

This is the facade of the building that faces Queens Dock and as can be seen was curved. In front  the anchors and propeller form a memorial to all those of the merchant navy that lost their lives in both world wars.

In November 2013 the another memorial to the approx 36,000 merchant seamen that lots their lives was unveiled close by the previous one that still remains. The new memorial represents a 4m high ships bow and cost £30,000.

In side the New Dock Offices the two floors were divided up into offices and the like. The ground floor had a large open plan area for all the general clerks and their desks. There were separate offices for the Dock Master, Resident Engineer and superintendent. On the second floor was a beautiful Proprietors court room, Directors withdrawing room and committee room along with solicitors offices etc. There was a strongroom on each floor for files and other items.

The Proprietors Court Room

Detail of the frieze of cherubs around the Court Room. Each cherub is holding the coat of arms of one of the cities with trade links to the port of Hull.

A lovely photo of the Dock Offices taken from Queens Gardens that were built on the filled in Queens Dock.

The Hull Dock Company eventually faced competition having held a monopoly on dock wharfage until 1885. The Dock Company made good money but most of the investors no longer lived or traded in the area so what was beneficial to the shareholders was not always the best thing for the city and surrounding area. Things like having a full dock with delays for ships was maybe good for the Company but not that good for trade, and this delayed building of new docks. In the end The Hull, Barnsley and East Riding Junction Railway opened Alexandra Dock to the east and the competition started. It drove down prices and led to cost cutting which eventually led to the Dock Company seeking out an amalgamation with a larger company. In they end the were merged into the North Eastern Railway Company in 1893. It was eventually acquired by the City Council in 1968 and in 1975 the Maritime Museum moved in from a previous site in Pickering Park in 1974. I will write a blog about the Museum at a later date.

Tuesday 16 December 2014

Fact 49. East Park is the largest park in Hull.

East park was the third of Hull's public parks (after Pearson Park and West Park) but is much the biggest in the city at about 120 acres. The first tranche of land of 38 acres was bought from the Ann Watson Trust for £17000. The land was out east of the centre of the town and was away from the built up area. The land was also chosen as it would have easy access as it was close to the tram terminus on Holderness Road. The designer was Joseph Fox Sharp, the Borough Surveyor and as soon as the land was purchased he started work. It was to have a carriage drive right round the exterior of the park and good quality housing was to built on the outer side of this road. The drive still exsists but the housing was never completed. Work commenced in 1883 and provided work for between 150 and 200 men in very straitened times before it was opened. The wages of 18s a week would have meant a great deal to them and their families.

The park opened on 21st June 1887 which was the date of Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee and large crowds lined the two mile route from the city centre to the park. The procession started at the Market Place where a new covered market was opened on this auspicious day and marched with bands etc to the new park. I believe the opening ceremony was carried out by the Mayor, Henry Toozes. Alderman W.F. Chapman made a speech at the opening ceremony suggesting that the park may be called Victoria Park but neither the new Market Hall or park were named after the monarch. Queen Victoria only visited Hull once, in 1854, and I have read that this was thought to be due to the turning away of Charles I at the start of the Revolution and this implied that Hull was anti monarchy. I doubt this was true but it makes you wonder whether that was a reason not to name these amenities after her. Mind you after such a long  reign there would already be plenty with her stamp on it.

The park catered for such activities as football, cricket and boating. The lake was later stocked with fish for angling. When the park opened there was a pong for model yacht racing along  with a boathouse for them. Competition was keen and the results of races were posted in the local papers. There is still a model boat club based at the park to this day. There was a bandstand and concerts were regularly performed. An early addition to the park was an ornamental rock garden which is the largest in a public park in the UK and survives to this day. It was designed by E.A. Peat and was built between 1885 and 1888 using stone from a nearby derelict mansion. The large gorges and cliff faces gave it the local name of the Khyber Pass, especially as this was the era of the second Afghan war ending in 1881. The stone work was adorned with a watch tower from the citadel that once protected the entrance to the River hull and the east flank of the city but had been demolished in the 1860's. The watch tower has been removed and placed in situ at the remains of the citadel near Victoria Dock.

Khyber Pass and bridge in East Park today.

The Citadel watch tower in Khyber Pass, East Park.

Land was slowly acquired and facilities added. Tennis and bowls were provided and in 1913 T.R. Ferens donated some land an a boating lake was dug. This was extended in 1923 and this then linked through to the King George V playing fields that were also brought into the park. In 1925 a double arch bridge was built across the lake. Also added was a children's boating lake and paddling pool. An aviary was opened in 1928 and a year later the Splash boat was added. This was built by Wicksteed and is now one of only two or three that survive. The boat drops 22 feet in a run of around 100 feet. The boat cost £1400 and the tower cost £ 474 and was built by the council. It is released from the tower and plunges down a rail before making a huge splash and spray in the lake before being hoisted back up the tower to do it all again. It is a must for all Grandparents with their charges in the summer.

East Park boating lake, Hull, in 1914

Splash Boat at East Park
Wicksteed Splash Boat in East Park, Hull.

By 1930 the park had reached it's fullest extent after taking in the boating lake land, the King George V playing fields and some disused clay pits. Efforts were made after WWII to restore the park with the building of islands in the boating lake and a dance hall to the southern edge. A Veterans Hall was built next to the dance hall a little later along with tennis courts. An area for small animals was added in 1963 where wallabies, emus and deer could be seen and the next year an outdoor swimming pool was opened.

There appeared to be a decline over the following years until in 2000 when a Lottery fund application was made and over the next few years over £10 million has been spent on the park. It is now extremely busy with all age groups. There is an Animal Education Centre with a walk through aviary, The splash boat has been restored and is open every summer. As the park is so large the large free outdoor concerts are held there as is the regular Saturday Park Run and other lifestyle and sports events. the children's play equipment is up dated and the up keep of the flower and grassed areas makes for a lovely setting for every outing. There is plenty of space for anything you want to do.

East Park, Hull.

I am expecting that East Park will be a venue for many of the larger concerts and events of the Year of the City of Culture, but when not hosting  such things it is a great place to be 'of the City' but not 'in the City'.

Monday 8 December 2014

Fact 48. The Football Association was instigated by a man from Hull.

I have just seen the draw for the 3rd Round of the FA Cup was held at The Deep in Hull and the presenter mentioned that the FA owes it's origins to Ebenezer Cobb Morley who was from Hull.

Ebenezer was born in Hull 16-Aug-1831. His father, also Ebenezer, was a Minister or Religion and lived at 10 Garden Square off Princess Street just to the north of the city centre with his wife Hannah Maria. Father was a Minister at Holborn Street and his father had been a Minister at the Hope Street Chapel for just under fifty years. In 1841 they moved Pemberton Street and later to Holborn Place a little to the west of his birth place. Little is known of his time in Hull but he did not attend a public school for his education. In 1852 the whole family moved to Chelsea, London. By 1854 young Ebenezer had qualified as a solicitor. He still held land in Hull though at least until 1876. By 1858 Ebenezer junior had moved to Barnes. He was very sporting and was the founder Captain of Barnes Football club. He also enjoyed rowing and went on to be founder and secretary of the Barnes and Mortlake Regatta and rowed in the London Rowing Club eight at the 1864 Henley Regatta. He also was a keen huntsman and had his own pack of twelve beagles!

Ebenezer Cobb Morley.
(The above photograph may not actually be of E.C. Morley after all).

At this time football was played to many and various rules. The main two were the Cambridge Rules played by the Universities and major schools and many clubs in the south. The Sheffield Rules were played by northern clubs.. In fact when teams played each other it was common to play one half of the game by the first club's rules and the second half by the others! This must have offended the Victorian sense of order of Ebenezer and he wrote a letter to the Bell's Life newspaper regarding the unifying of the rules in a similar to the way the rules of cricket had been unified. Following this a meeting was held at the Freemasons' Tavern in Holborn. It was attended by representatives of  clubs, Barnes, Blackheath, Perceval House, Kensington School, Crystal Palace, The War Office, Forest (later becoming Wanderers), Crusaders, Surbiton, BlackHeath Propietory School and No Names of Kilburn. Charterhouse just sent an observer but did not join. At this meeting it was agreed to form an association with the aim to unify the rules of the game. The rules had been drafted by Ebenezer Morley as he had been voted as Secretary of the new Association. There were 23 Rules. No.9 regarding the running with the ball towards the opponents goal if it had been caught 'on the full' after the first bounce. No. 10 concerned that it would be legal for opponents to hack the front of the legs of a person running with the ball. These two rules were very hotly discussed. One person stated that 'do away with hacking and you will do away with the courage and pluck of the game, and it will bound to bring over a lot of Frenchmen who would beat you with a weeks practice'.

This is what football teams looked like in 1863. This is Forest  that soon became Wanderers.

By 8-Dec-1863 the rules had been agreed. F.W. Campbell from Blackheath argued to keep the handling and hacking rules in but lost on a vote 13 to 4. He resigned his club and he and they went on to be founder members of the Rugby Football Union in 1871. The only handling of the ball was when a clean catch was made and a mark could be made when a free kick could be made. This was later dropped but still survives in Rugby Union. There were 13 rules, No.6 being the offside rule stating that when a player touches the ball, any player of his side who is nearer the opponents goal line is out of play. This in effect requires the ball to be passed backwards which is still the case in rugby. Rule 13 stated that projecting nails, iron plates or gutta percha could be worn on the soles or heels of boots! (Gutta percha was the sap from a tree used for many things until plastic and Bakelite came along).

The Association wanted to get going as soon as possible and the first match under the new rules was played on 18-Dec-1863 between Barnes and Richmond and it was a 0-0 draw and Ebenezer played. He also played in the first representative match when a London Clubs team played a Sheffield Clubs representative side on 31- Mar-1866. In 1867 he was appointed as President of the FA.

E.C. Morley in later life with a determined jaw.

In October 1869 he found time to marry Frances Bidgood in Pancras but they did not have any children. He went on to sit on the Surrey County Council, become a Justice of the Peace and be a Conservator of Barnes Common along with his association with rowing and hunting. He went on to present the trophy after the first FA Cup final as the President. Wanderers beat the Royal Engineers 1-0 in a match played at the Oval in 1872.

Ebenezer Morley died in Richmond at 93 on 20-Nov-1924. He was Buried in Barnes.
(This photograph is not E.C. Morley but is in fact William McGregor who was the founder of the Football League in 1888 and the first President).

By 2011 the graveyard where he was buried had become abandoned and merged with Barnes Common. Friends of the Common wanted to restore the area but after seeking sponsorship from the local Council and the FA and been denied it fell to a local business man to come up with the cash and propose a scheme to have the grave recognised. By 2013, the 150 anniversary of the founding of the FA, they had been successful and in December of that year Greg Dyke the current chairman of the FA laid a wreath at the grave side.

Greg Dyke, Chairman of the FA, laying a wreath at the grave of E.C. Morley in Barnes on the 150th anniversary of the founding of the FA.

There is nothing in Hull to celebrate this sportsman from Hull who Melvin Bragg reckons Morley's Book of Laws of Football was one of the twelve most influential books ever. Up there with the origin of the species. Football today has become a huge sport and business and he had the foresight to first codify the rules of the game. 

A Cottingham school boy Oliver Harsley has started a campaign to have a statue to the man made and placed in Hull. Please contact using Twitter @For Statue and hashtag #StatueForEbenezer and we could could again become focus of the world stage in our small way.

Friday 28 November 2014

Fact 47. Railway Dock was the first in Hull to have direct rail access.

Junction had been opened in 1829 completing a ring of docks around the centre of Hull. The Old Dock was first accessed from the River Hull. Then came Humber Dock with a lock into the estuary and then Junction Dock that linked the other two and completed the circle. However trade was still increasing and with threats from Goole, Selby and other inland ports more accommodation had to be made. The next project was a branch dock off Humber Dock and was to be the smallest of the Town Docks. The Bill passed in the Houses of Parliament in 1844. This same Bill provided for the building of a dock to the east of the city also.

The engineer was J.B. Hartley who was the son of the builder of many of the Liverpool Docks and the first full time professional dock engineer in the world. The original plan was extended and the finished dock was 218 x 50m and extended to the west from Humber Dock. The build cost was £106,000. The main purpose of the dock was to act as a transhipment base for cargoes to and from the new railway system. Many warehouse were built around the Dock.
About 1905 showing the warehouses on the south side of Railway Dock.

The Hull and Selby Railway had been completed in 1840 with the terminus station being just to the south of Railway Dock and fronting on Humber Dock It was called Manor House Street Station. By 1845 they built lines to join with the new Railway Dock makinbg it the first in Hull to have direct connections with the railway system. The lines were also extended to Humber Dock.

In 1968 Railway Dock, along with the other Town Docks, were closed. The Old Dock, by then called Queens Dock after a visit by Queen Victoria had been filled in. The Hull Corporation bought the docks for around £500,000 and Railway and Humber Dock became the Hull Marina with berths for about 270 opened in 1984 

Railway Dock about 1970 after it had closed. You can see that a middle section of the warehouses had already been demolished. This main block was also to be taken down later.

The view of Railway Dock from the Holiday Inn Hotel that was built on the north side of the dock. The warehouse opposite in Warehouse 13 and houses apartments and restaurants and is the only survivor of the warehouse and can be seen as the tall three ridge warehouse in the middle of the first picture.

Rail Tracks still visible on Kingston Street that runs to the south and parallel to Railway Dock.

This is the entrance to Railway Dock from Humber Dock. This is one half of the bridge that carried rail lines to the north side of the dock. there is a mirror image of it on this side and they meet in the middle.

Just to the south of the last photograph on Railway Street are these refurbished lines and turntable. The trucks would have been moved about the system by hand or horse I suspect. The boats are in Humber Dock and Railway Dock entrance is top left of the picture. Manor House Street station would have been facing Humber Dock further to the right of this picture.

The Town Docks delineate the centre of Hull as surely as the old City Walls did in there day. The docks give the character to the city centre and the two docks making up the Hull marina and the waterfront are a popular venue for walks and concerts and the Shanty weekend. The area is to become even more busy and desirable once the Fruit Market are is developed to the east of these docks. I real draw for visitors to the city by City of Culture 2017 we hope.

Saturday 22 November 2014

Fact 46. Earle's Ship Shipbuilders were world beaters.

Charles and William Earle were millwrights, founders and general smiths before they bought the business of James Livingston, Junction Foundry in Waterhouse Lane in 1845. They were the sons of Thomas Earle who, with his brother George left York to set up a cement company at Wilmington in Hull. James Livingston also was a ship wright and had made his first steam packet boat in 1831 and launched from a site on the Humber Bank. Charles and William saw a good opportunity as up until then shipbuilders had concentrated on wooden whalers and sailing vessels but an iron hulled steam driven vessel opened new markets. The Company was by 1851 employed 72 but still hadn't built a ship so must have been continuing their old work and tended for work for the Hull Baths and Wash house Committee that they didn't win.

The first ship was launched in 1853 and was called 'Minister Thorbecke' for the Zwolle Shipping company for the run between Hull and Zwolle. It was named after the Dutch Prime Minister. It was driven by a propeller by twin 30HP compound steam engines and was 148' x 22' x 10' and 220 nett tons and 300 gross tons. In 1861 the yard had a fire and they decided to move to 26 acres of leased land to the east of Victoria Dock that had opened in 1850 with frontage onto the Humber. In 1863 they bought another 47 acres next to the rest of the land. They were doing so well that by 1865 they were the second largest shipbuilder in the country having built nine ships totaling 9514 tons. (The largest was Samuelson's of Sammy's point in Hull who had built eleven ships).

Sir Edward Reed had been appointed the Chief Constructor to the Royal Navy in 1863. He was knighted in 1868 and became Managing Director of Earle's Shipbuilding and engineering Co in 1871 and oversaw the move into naval and foreign naval contracts. He doesn't look like somebody to suffer fools.

In 1871 Charles suddenly dies and William was in poor health so it was decided that the company would be taken over by a consortium of the shareholders and the company became known as Earle's Shipbuilding and Engineering Company. Edward Reed was appointed as Managing Director. He had been a Naval Architect for the Admiralty previously. Whilst initially this contact with the Royal Navy paid dividends it soon soured when the Admiralty stopped having ships built at Earle's as Reed had technical differences with them. They did however build two steam Yachts for the Russian Czar Alexander III, and auxillary sailing yacht for the Duke of Marlborough, and ironclad barques for the Chilean Navy. Reed had stood as a Liberal for a Hull constituency  and had lost but in 1874 he stood in Pembroke and gained his seat. He resigned from Earle's in the same year. He had lived in Kirkella House in Kirkella to the eat of Hull and Czar Alexander had stayed there when he visited to choose fixtures and fittings for his vessels.

Russian Imperial Yacht Tsarevna.

 Also at this time Earle's built the 'Bessemer' which was an attempt by it's designer Henry Bessemer to prevent seasickness (from which he suffered badly). The rolling was to be stopped by mounting an internal structure on gimbals and the pitching reduced by hydraulic rams operated by a person watching a spirit level. The vessel only made two voyages and only one with passengers. The first time it collided with the jetty at Calais and the second time, with passengers, the mechanism was locked and this time it collided twice. It remained in Dover until being scrapped in 1879. Edward Reed bought the suspended saloon and installed it at his house in Swanly as a billiard room. When the house became a college it became a lecture theatre. Unfortunately it was lost due to a direct hit in WWII. Following his resignation several ships were built for the Royal navy and the 'Kongo' which was the first ship for the new modernised Japanese Navy.

In 1880 Earles started building steel ships, the first being 'Gitano' for Wilson's of Hull. A sister ship had been built in iron, but following this trial Wilson's built all their ships of steel. They were also early adopters of triple expansion engines. Once more with Wilson Line they built sister ships, one with a compound steam engine and one with a triple expansion engine. After a round trip to the east they found that the later had saved 20% on fuel and was also 6% faster. By 1885 the yard had built 286 ships and were employing between 2 and 3000 workers. Two barges were built of iron in 1890 and then all future ships were of steel.

Earle's shipyard by the Humber in 1887.

Competition became very fierce and the yard was in financial straits. Only five ships were completed in 1896 and none in 1897 and three in 1898. In that year they built their longest ship so far, the 'Cleopatra' at 482 feet. It was for Wilson's run from London to New York and Boston. She was lost of The Lizard in the same year. By 1900 the shareholders had given up and gone into voluntary liquidation.  Charles Wilson the Hull ship owner (see fact 4) and bought the company for £170,000 on Christmas Eve 1901. That is about £14 million today. No expense was spared in rebuilding the site and equipment and electricity was used to power all equipment and this total rebuild was to give them an edge in profits in the future. Still no building was carried out until 1903 and perhaps the first job was the building of a lifeboat for the Humber conservancy that was to be stationed at Spurn Point. In 1904 they built a 'flat pack' boat, the Inca, for a ferry in Peru where it was reassembled. In 1907 they built the 'Buffalo' which was the largest tonnage shiop built at 5000 grt. The yard was kept quite busy during WWI and afterwards they built many steam trawlers and tugs but by the 1930's the order books were very thin. The Great Depression had caused many yards to reach the brink and the Government  stepped in with a sponsored rationalisation of the industry. In 1932 the National Ship Builders Security acquired the business and set about dismantling it. A large proportion of the equipment was packaged off and sent to the Kowloon ship yard in Hong Kong.
In total Earle's built 682 vessel and about 130 of these were for  Wilson Line Companies.

The west side of Earle's Shipyard in 1924.

The east end of the yard shown in 1931.

The yard is no more although there is an inlet at the end of the promenade on the river front of New Victoria Dock Village that once used to be part of the slipways of the yard. Earle's Road still leads down to an industrial estate that boarders the old yard and is next to where Siemens will be shortly constructing windmills for offshore turbine farms. It is a shame that such a great company can not be remembered in a better way, perhaps with a sculpture or design that incorporates the giant hammerhead crane that dominated the Humber north shore for so many years.

Sunday 16 November 2014

Fact 45. The Lion of Hull was Sir Leo Shultz, OBE.

Joseph Leopold Shultk was born in 1900 to Polish Immigrant parents. His father Solomon had come over in around 1880. His mother was a Hiller. They eventually had a pawnbrokers shop on Holderness Road.

Leo was recognised as a boy genius when he attended Craven Street School. He obviously had already started on the road of helping others too as there is a story that he gave his boots to another lad as he didn't have any. But like all boys he got up to mischief and using the school's chemistry labs he developed an explosive cocktail that when placed on the nearby trams lines went off with sufficient force to derail the front of the passing tram!

Perhaps Leo's socialist leanings were cemented when at 15 he sat for a scholarship to Oxford University. The Hull Education Authority had one to award every year. Leo came first and was given two expensively bound and inscribed works of literature. However he was advised that a 'boy like you can not live and work in Oxford' and the prize was awarded to the second placed lad. It is said that he was the son of the Chief Education Officer. It was suggested that Leo became a pupil/teacher at Craven Street and he remained there for two more years.

In 1917 he lied about his age and joined the Durham Light Infantry as a volunteer. He was eventually promoted to Sergeant and served in Italy with his Battalion. After demobilisation he started out as a pupil accountant, but it seems that he was set on improving the lot of the working class by education and opportunity and soon became a prominent member of the local Labour Party. He soon started work for himself.

He was introduced to his wife by a friend when she was working in York in 1919. He was smitten by the beautiful Kate (Kitty) Pickersgill and tried to impress her by gate crashing a party she was attending. Leo became a Councillor for the Labour party representing the Myton ward in 1926. Kitty and Leo married in 1928. It was obvious that Leo's energies were more into representing the people than his accountancy work as every March and April there were rows between the married couple as Kitty tried to get him to sort out his clients tax returns etc so as to bring some money into the family as there were no expenses paid councilors in those days. They had a son, christened Lionel in 1931.

Kitty joined the Jewish faith and also joined her husband as a councilor, maybe just to see more of him! She was at one stage the Chair of the Cultural Services Committee and was instrumental in having the New Theatre built.

Leo Shultz foresaw the coming of WWII and wanted Hull to be ready for the conflict. He managed to persuade the Hull City Council to have built 4000 shelters in readiness for the anticipated air campaign. The Council had no funding to cover the £1.5 million outlay and by the time they had managed to convince the Government of their argument the air raid shelters were under construction. By his efforts the shelters were ready prior to the Blitz and saved many lives. The Anderson shelters were made of sheets of corrugated sheet steel that were sunk into the ground a couple of feet to provide a shelter 6'x6'x 4'6" and provided shelter for 4 to 6 people. The the house owners earnings were less than £250 a year they were provided free.

Like many other cities a committee for refugees was set up and with his background Leo did not hesitate in getting involved. He took on all liabilities for a young lad who had escaped Vienna in Austria on the Kindertransport along with his sister. Robert Rosner aged just under 9 was taken in by Leo and Kityy and fitted in well with their son Lionel. His elder sister, Renate 13, was taken in by another Jewish couple that were greengrocers and lived on Anlaby High Road. After the war it was found that Their parents had survived the war and Renate chose to return to Vienna. Robert was eventually adopted and became a successful architect in the city.

Sir Leo Shultz.

Kitty worked tirelessly for the civil defence of the city as she was up every night. Leo was working within the Air Raid Precautions branch and was awarded the OBE following the war for his efforts. He also became the Lord Mayor for 1942/43. Following the war Leo through himself fully into council work and politics and was the leader of Hull Council from 1945 until 1979. This was the period that saw the rebuilding of the city after the devastation of the war years when Hull was the most badly bombed city outside of Hull but was only talked of as a 'North East coastal town'. He oversaw the rebuilding of the housing with the creation of new estates such as Bilton Grange, Greatfield, Longhill, Boothferry, Orchard Park and Bransholme. He became known as 'Lion of Hull' for his steadfast work for the benefit of Hull through this period.

Leo Shultz tried to become an MP and was said to have been prevented from becoming the parliamentary candidate for the labour held North Hull constituency by trickery. The winner was found to be wanted by the police in Australia for bigamy. He later stood for election twice in the Tory held seat of Holderness where he was beaten both times. He then concentrated on his work for the benefit of Hull. In the 1950's the y lived on Duesbury Street off Prices Avenue but their adopted son designed and built a house for them on Newland Park which was beneficial to Kitty as she was suffering badly from arthritis.

Sir Leo Shultz.

Leo enjoyed a game of cricket and indeed there is a photograph of the young lad playing cricket in the bottom of the under construction king George Dock. He used to watch the cricket at The Circle and played wicket keeper and captained the council side into his early 50's.

He was for many years the Chairman of the finance committee and was well known in Whitehall for his expertise. He was also on the committee of the National Association of Municipal Authorities that also had much contact with government and civil servants. He was knighted in 1966 for his services to local government. He also was honoured by the french Government for his work during the war.
Kitty died in 1975 and Leo passed away in 1991. In later years of his work for Hull he became known as Mr. Hull.

On 9th May 2011 a bronze statue was unveiled of Leo Shultz. It  is found in a niche in the walkl of the Guildhall on Quay Street, Queen's Park. In was designed by Nigel Boonham and cost £86000. The unveiling was attended by civic dignitaries and members of his family.

Sir Leo Shultz, OBE. Guildhall, Hull.

'Mr Hull' or 'The Lion of Hull' often used to state something that was alluded to in the City of Culture bid video, ' Some may think that Hull is at the end of the line, but I know, and can tell you that the line starts from Hull.'

Friday 14 November 2014

Fact 36. Venn diagrams were conceived by an Hullensian.

John Venn was born in Hull and he conceived the idea of using what became known as Venn Diagrams for use in probability, logic and statistics. When I was at school this was called 'modern maths'! A Venn Diagram is a diagram used to represent mathematical or logical sets as circles or curves and where they overlap is where elements of the set are common.

This Venn diagram has three circles showing three sets. They are  children with blonde hair, boys, and children over 8 years old. Where all three circles overlap Sam is found to satisfy all three criteria. It can also be seen that Bill is a boy with blonde hair and Ian is a boy older than 8. The other names only satisfy one of the sets or criteria.

John Venn was born in Hull 4th August 1834. His mother was Martha, nee Sykes, and came from nearby Swanland. His father was Rev. Henry Venn (II) who at the time was Rector of Drypool Church in Hull. Young John had a lot to live up to as his grandfather was Rev. John Venn had been the Rector of Clapham Holy Trinity Church in South London. He was the leader of a group of Evangelical Christians that later had become known as the 'Clapham Sect'. The movement had been started by the Rev. John's father Rev. Henry (I) who had also been the Rector of Holy Trinity. The group were campaigners for the abolition of slavery, prison reform, the prevention of cruel sports and supported missionary work abroad. There are  connections with Hull here as William Wilberforce was another member of the group and is a hero of Hull. The Group also set up the Church Missionary Society that founded Freetown in Sierra Leone to which Hull is now twinned. Young John's father Rev. Henry Venn (II) was also a fellow of Queens College

Our John's mother died when he was only 6 and his father Rev. Henry (II) took up the post of Secretary to the Church Missionary Society in 1841 which meant that they moved to Highgate in London. John was educated at Sir Cholmley's School that later became Highgate School, and then Islington Pre. school. He followed the family tradition of wanting to become a priest for which his strict upbringing had well suited him.

At 19 in 1853 he enrolled in Gonville and Caius College Cambridge and was awarded a maths scholarship the following year.. He graduated in 1857as the 6th best student with a !st Class degree in maths. He was also awarded a Bachelor of Science degree and a little later became a Fellow of the College and remained so all his life.

In 1858 he became a Deacon at Ely and following his ordination in 1859 became a Curate, first at Cheshunt and then Mortlake. In 1862 he returned to Cambridge to lecture in moral science and also studied and taught logic and probability theory.

He married Susanna Edmonstone, the daughter of a vicar in 1869 and they went on to have one son, another John, who went on to become a Fellow of Queens College in 1932 and worked collaborated with his father later in life.

Venn John signature.jpg

Around 1880 he conceived the idea of the Venn diagram during his work in the probability and logic field. He was elected a Fellow of the  Royal Society in 1883 but felt he had to resign from the priesthood as he no longer found that his philosophical beliefs were compatible with the Anglicanism of the time. However he remained a man of sincere religious conviction.

After this time he turned to history and wrote histories of Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge University and his families history. He collaborated with his son for some of this work. He had long had an interest in building machines and one of his most successful could be said to his machine for bowling cricket balls. When the Australian Cricket team visited Cambridge University in 1909 his machine bowled their top batsman, four times!

He died in Cambridge age 88 on 4th April 1923. In a recent poll his was voted the 3rd Greatest Modern Mathematician after Sir Issac Newton and Leonhard Euler the Swiss Mathematician. His son said of his father, ' of spare build, he was throughout his life a fine walker and mountain climber, a keen botanist and an excellent talker and linguist'.

John Venn's commemorative window at Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge.

There is a stained glass window in his old Cambridge College to commemorate his work and Hull University have named a building completed in 1928 after him.

Hull University Venn Building named after the Mathematician.

Sunday 9 November 2014

Fact 44. A Hull FC player received the Victoria Cross.

On this Remembrance Sunday one hundred years after the start of WWI I thought it appropriate to write about a recipient of the highest award for bravery award in the UK, the Victoria Cross. I know of at least two winners of the medal and I will tell the story of other winners at a later date.

John (Jack) Harrison couldn't be more connected to the Hull if he had tried. He was born in Hull on the 12th November 1890 close to Earles Shipyard where his father worked as a plater and boilermaker. His family wanted the best for him and he worked hard at school and did not leave at twelve like most others, so he was able to advance to St John's College in York where he trained to be a teacher. St John's is now St John's University, York. Not only did he do well in his studies but excelled at sport. He represented the college at cricket and swimming and was the captain of the rugby team. Once qualified he started teaching at a school in York and was spotted by members of the York rugby league club. He started playing for them and during the 1911/12 season he played five times and scored three tries.

Jack returned to Hull to take up a position as teacher at  Lime Street School in September 1912. He also married Lillian on 1st September 1912 and then played his first game for Hull FC on 5th September 1912. It must have been a very busy time of his life, with an awful lot of changes. Jack went on to become a hero with the rugby fans as he scored 52 tries in the 1913/14 season, a record that still stands. He eventually scored 106 tries in 116 matches played which is a very impressive strike rate in  anybodies book. One of these tries was in the 1914 Challenge cup Final that helped Hull FC lift the trophy after defeating Wakefield Trinity in the final played at Halifax. Jack was selected to play for Great Britain but unfortunately with the outbreak of WWI the 1914 tour to Australia was cancelled.

Jack Harrison in Hull FC strip.

He volunteered for the army not very long after his son, called Jackie, was born and on 4th November 1915 started Officer training as a Private in the Inns of Court OTC. On completion of his training on 5th August 1916 he was commissioned as probationary Temporary 2nd Lieutenant in the East Yorkshire Regiment and was assigned to 6 platoon 11th Battalion also known as the Tradesmen.
At this time on the Somme front as a whole the British Army were losing about 300 men a day.  In February 1917 Jack and his men once more moved into the front line and on 25th March they were called upon to undertake a patrol into no-mans land. By the end of the nights work jack had won a Military Medal. The citation reads,

" For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. He handled his platoon with great courage and skill, reached his objective under the most trying conditions and captured a prisoner. He set a splendid example throughout."

On 3rd May 1917 his Brigade were ordered to make a night attack on a wood near Oppy in the Pas de Calais. Jack's platoon were soon in the thick of it and there appears to have been much confusion as it was dark and the artillery fire from both sides was making life difficult for them to move about. Eventually they came upon on the German trenches that were well dug in and became pinned down. Several attacks were made on the trenches but each was repulsed. Eventually Jack, armed with a mills grenade and his pistol attempted to silence the machine gun to enable his men to continue.
Jack's citation for the  Victoria Cross reads as follows;

"For most conspicuous bravery and self sacrifice in an attack. Owing to darkness and to smoke from the enemy barrage, and from our own, and to the fact that the objective was in a dark wood, it was impossible to see when our barrage had lifted off the enemy front line. Nevertheless 2nd Lieutenant Harrison led his company against the enemy trench under heavy rifle and machine gun fire, but was repulsed. Re-organising his command as best he could in No Man's Land he again attacked in darkness, under terrific fire, but with no success. Then turning round, this gallant officer single handed made a dash at the machine gun, hoping to knock out the gun and so save the lives of many of his company. His self sacrifice and absolute disregard of danger was an inspiring example to all. (He is reported missing, reported killed.)"

Jack Harrison was never seen again and his body has never been found. He is commemorated at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Arras memorial.

His wife Lillian was presented with Jack's medal by King George V at Buckingham Palace in March 1918.

Times were not easy for war widows and the people of Hull raised a fund for for their hero on the rugby pitch and the battlefield to help pay for the education of young Jackie.

Yong Jack went on to serve as a Captain in the West Riding Regiment in WWII, and made the ultimate sacrifice during the defence of Dunkirk and is buried in Dunkirk's cemetery.

Lilian went to live to a good age and died 5th December 1977. She had left Jack Harrison's medals to the East Yorkshire Regiment in Beverley. This has now been incorporated into the Prince of Wales Own Regiment of Yorkshire museum in York.

On this Rememberance Sunday it is good to know that Jack Harrison has not been forgotten for in 2002 a group of Hull FC fans decided that they would like a memorial to their hero and started a fund to do so. By 2003 they had raised sufficient to erect a memorial outside the KC Stadium. It was sculpted by Jenny Oliver.

The memory and courage of Jack Harrison is set to continue as a Trust has been set up to raise funds for the presentation of memorial medals to children of lesser ability who use rugby league to overcome adversity. The fund is always open and would welcome any donations at


Wednesday 5 November 2014

Fact 43. Tom Courtenay was born in Hull.

Sir Thomas Daniel Courtenay was born in Hull 25th February 1937. As thousands of others in the Hessle Road area of Hull his mother and father worked around the fishing fleets. His dad Tommy painted the trawlers when they were in dock and between trips and his mother Annie Eliza was a net braider. When young Tom got older his father couldn't understand why he didn't like a fight but along with his mother were determined that Tom would do better. It was his mother that gave him extra tuition whilst he attended West Dock Avenue Boys School. At first he didn't like it as he didn't get as much attention from the teacher as his from his Mum. How ever he was one of only two lads that passed their 11 Plus out of a year of fifty boys.

During the war his mother and younger sister Ann were evacuated to Bridlington but they hated it and were back home within a fortnight. Hessle Road was right by the docks and was an area badly bombed. Whilst houses at each end of their road were bombed they hid in the cupboard under the stairs during raids and the worst they had was all their windows were blown out. His father never got called up and they think it was a book keeping error. All in all he enjoyed the war like many young lads at the time.

Tom Courtney
Tom Courtenay aged 10.

By passing the 11 Plus Tom went to the Grammar School Kingston High that was a bus ride away. He loved it and realised that education was important to him and enjoyed his time there, especially the school plays and poetry readings where he realised that he was good at it and that people would listen. He became a Prefect and later was made Head Boy.

He went to University College London to read English but the pressure of expectation laid him low the week before his Finals. He later said that it had been a breakdown. However he said that he had selected University College as it was next door to RADA and with in seven days of his collapse he had auditioned and won a full scholarship to RADA. Here he was among what became the known as the Angry Young Men of the 'British New Wave'. This included Albert Finney, Alan Bates and Peter O'Toole and was based on a reality approach to acting with regional accents and gritty dramas that took the stage by storm. His stage debut was with the Old Vic Company in Edinburgh. His first big break was in 'The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner' in 1962. Unfortunately his mother died a week before the film was released but she already knew he was on the way to success after leaving RADA. He won the BAFTA award for Best Newcomer. 

Tom Courtenay in the Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner, 1962

He then took over the lead role of Billy Liar in the stage play of the same name from Albert Finney. He also starred in the film of the play in 1963 with Julie Christie and it was another great hit. Then came 'King and Country' with Dirk Bogarde and 'Operation Crossbow' with Sophia Loren and Trevor Howard. He was nominated for the BAFTA Best British Actor for Billy Liar anbd King and Country. He went to Hollywood to film 'King Rat' but didn't really like the experience and turned down many Hollywood roles. His next big success was in Doctor Zhivago in 1965 for which he was nominated for a Best Supporting Acton Oscar.

The 1970's were a little fallow for films but he worked consistently on stage. He married his first wife Cheryl Kennedy in 1973 who was also an actress. They divorced in 1982. Courtenay had a long association with Manchester when we worked at the University Century Theatre that then became the Royal Exchange Theatre. His next big film success was in 'The Dresser' with Albert Finney in 1983. For this he won the Golden Globe Best Actor Award and was nominated for the OSCAR Best Actor and BAFTA Best British Actor Awards. In 1988 he married Isabel Crossley who he met at the Manchester Theatre where she was a stage manager. Their big regret is not having children following a miscarriage.

Albert Finney and Tom Courtenay in 'The Dresser'.

  In 2000 he wrote a memoir which contained letters with his Mother and other anecdotes from his time as a young actor. He was knighted in 2001 in the Queens New Year Honours List. He also wrote and acted a one man show based on the letters and writings of another Hull Hero Philip Larkin in 2002. Tom continues to work on stage film and television and is continuing to act. His latest film is currently being made and is the film of Dad's Army in which he will play Corporal Jones, a role for which he seems ideal. This is bound to be a smash hit when it comes out.

Tom Courtenay at the opening of his Dustin Hoffman directed film 'Quartet'.

Tom Courtenay has always been a great supporter of Hull, literally, as he is the President of the Hull City AFC Official Supports Club. He received an Honorary Doctorate from Hull University in 1999.
That Hull won the bid for the Year of Culture 2017 owes a great deal of thanks to Sir Tom for narrating the promotional video for the bid. I think the whole thing is a master piece by all involved and still brings tears to my eyes and I'm sure in no small measure ensured that we were victorious in our bid. If you haven't seen it I urge you to watch. Here is the link;

Omar Sharif and Tom Courtenay at Hull City.

One day there will be a statue of Sir Tom Courtenay in Hull.