Friday, 27 January 2017

Finding Tipperary Mary, a book inspired by search for long-lost mum

Barbara Fisher and Phyllis Whitsell
Finding Tipperary Mary is the title of our next ‘meet the author’ evening at Molesey Library on Tuesday 28th February. It is also the title of a book, which is now a bestseller here and in Canada, and was featured in the Times bestseller list for several weeks.
It is a remarkable true story about a nurse from Birmingham called Phyllis Whitsell who tracked down the alcoholic mother he gave her up for adoption as a baby and the moving account of what happened next. Phyllis was encouraged to tell her story by her good friend Barbara Fisher, who ghost wrote the book. They planned to self-publish but Mirror Books stepped in and snapped it up, resulting in nationwide publicity and TV appearances for Phyllis, as well as interviews on radio. The film rights have also been sold.
Barbara lives in West London for many years with her husband Mike. They have a daughter, son-in-law, and a grandcat! She was a teacher for 15 years and entered full-time journalism at the suggestion of an editor who liked the weekly schools’ page she wrote for the Uxbridge Gazette. She spent 20 years working for the paper and is now freelance, but still writes a weekly column. Barbara was made an honorary fellow of Brunel University in 2005 for her community reporting.
She is also writing her own book, Tales from an Old Hack: memoir of a local reporter. Tickets to the Finding Tipperary Mary talk (28th Feb, 7.15pm) are available from the library priced £5.

Naval disaster inspires fascinating talk by admiral at Molesey Library

Rear Admiral Kit Layman
An epic tale of murder, mutiny and man’s struggle for survival against the elements, was brought to life at Molesey Library by Rear Admiral Kit Layman.
The distinguished Royal Navy man – who commanded HMS Invincible and HMS Argonaut during the Falklands War, and frequently accompanies the Queen – was the guest speaker at the Friends of Molesey Library’s sixth AGM, on the evening of Tuesday 24th January 2017.
After being introduced by our author events organiser, John Coope, the retired admiral took his place at the lectern and regaled the audience with a good natured and thoroughly fascinating account of the ill-fated last voyage of the HMS Wager, which was wrecked off the south coast of Chile in 1741.
Admiral Layman explained that he had inherited a book about the Wager disaster written by John Byron, grandfather of the famous poet and one of the survivors of the wreck. He described the book as “very readable, perceptive and fair to all sides,” adding: “I read the book rubbing my eyes with disbelief at the story that unfolds.” That story has been retold for the modern reader by Rear Admiral Layman in his book: The Wager Disaster, Mayhem, Mutiny and Murder in the South Seas – of which he signed copies at Molesey on the night.
The 28 gun ship with her crew of 140 men (plus Chelsea pensioners) had put to see on a mission to harass and disrupt Spanish interests in South America (Britain being at war with Spain at the time) but suffered a catalogue of disasters. It was damaged by a huge storm, lost the rest of the fleet, her captain died, men were stricken with scurvy and dysentery and the ship was smashed to bits on the rocks at the aptly named Gulf of Sorrows.
The Admiral said: “As the ship broke up, discipline broke down.” The men were surrounded by harsh and inhospitable terrain and they had no food or shelter (though a large amount of alcohol washed ashore, perhaps not a good thing in the circumstances). They were stuck there for five months, while the new and unpopular captain, David Cheap, drew up plans for them to extend the long boat and use it to sail north and capture a Spanish ship.
Trouble was, said the Admiral, that in those days if a ship wrecked then the Navy was no longer obliged to pay the sailors, and knowing they were no longer employed they ceased to feel obliged to follow the captain. When Cheap shot a rebellious man in the face it was a turning point. 81 men left in smaller boats in a mutiny led by the gunner Mr Bulkley and sailed for 111 days until they reached the Rio Grande. Admiral Layman was full of admiration.

While they made it back to England, 8 of their number were cast away – we’re not sure why – and they went on to be captured by a tribe of Indians, paired up with the chiefs captured Spanish slave women (told to breed more slaves) but eventually made it home in a prisoner transfer.
Meanwhile Captain Cheap, Byron and those left behind (numbering about 20) lost more and more of their number in ill-fated attempts to escape and eventually travelled in land with the help of a native. Finally they got home, five years after they left, to a court martial, to apportion blame for the loss of the ship and not the mutiny (luckily for Bulkley). Captain Cheap, who returned home half dead, married an heiress and retired to Scotland, while Byron became a commodore and founded a British settlement in the Falklands. He continued to have bad luck at sea and earned the nickname “Bad Weather Jack”.
The Admiral showed photos of the Falklands and also where parts of the Wager, like the canons, have been salvaged and ended up. The ship wreck itself has in recent years been found by Chilean archaeologists. Finally he took questions from the audience - responding to one that he thought it unlikely, though not impossible, that the Royal Navy could mutiny again - and joined guests for a glass of wine.

Thursday, 26 January 2017

'Use Molesey Library or lose it' is message at Friends AGM

Thank you to all who attended the sixth Friends of Molesey Library Annual General Meeting on Tuesday 24th January 2016. For everyone else here is a recap of what happened.
Chairman Pauline Morozgalska introduced and thanked members of the committee for their hard work and giving generously of their time throughout the year. She gave a short overview of the main events during 2016 as follows:
The weekly Friday Coffee Morning is firmly embedded in the Library timetable and a growing number of people appreciate the warm welcome and friendly faces.  Our dedicated team of volunteers who serve and provide the delicious homemade cakes are wonderful.
The Knit and Natter sessions take place on the third Tuesday afternoon of each month. The group either knit items for themselves or knit for their chosen charity. Friends have created a great atmosphere where experienced knitters share their skills with beginners and the inexperienced.
The Friends support the Library Book Club. Clare Newman liaises with Marian Gibbons to ensure that there is an interesting selection of books to discuss and co-ordinates the group. 
Generally, funds are raised through our Author Events and Coffee Mornings so that we can buy things for our library that are not funded by the Library Service.
We were not involved in a presentation ceremony for the children’s summer reading challenge. This was quite simply because there were no medals to award as SCC decided to just give a certificate – a great shame especially as uptake last summer was down on previous years.
John Coope arranged a fascinating programme of author events over the last year. We had police psychologist-turned novelist Dr John Marzillier, a talk on white Russians by VanoraBennett, and in April Susie Holliday and Louise Voss talked about crime writing and where their ideas come from. In September there was a full house for Hampton Court curator Tracy Borman’s talk on the Tudors, and in November local author Van Louizos whisked the audience back in time to WW2 and his experiences of Greece under the Nazis. More events are arranged for 2017.
The Chair introduced Kelly Sanai Badwal Surrey library Service, who thanked the Friends for purchasing vital equipment for the library (such garden benches and children’s chairs) and explained that, while visits to Molesey Library declined 1% in 2016 the number of books borrowed remained the same. She said November had been a particularly good month.
Steve Bax introduced the committee members and asked proposers and seconders for everyone to continue in their respective roles for another year. Pauline was reappointed chairman. She quoted The Reading Agency who claim there are great benefits to health and wellbeing from reading. “It’s said to help relax you, sharpen your mind, increase your satisfaction levels and even improve your relationships with others!” The message remains as ever, that if, as a community we don’t use this wonderful free facility we will lose it.   

Finally, Treasurer Liz Cooper highlighted the success of the Friends-run coffee and cake mornings (every Friday at the library) that brought in £1507 last year (all the cakes are baked by local volunteers!). The author events netted £485, but we had to spend £310 on repairs to the library sign after it was vandalised. In total the Friends have £3886.63 in the bank.