A race with a difference

Ultimate enduranceBack in 1970 when Glastonbury first opened its muddy fields to the public, 1,50o people turned up. Within a few years it was selling 30,000 tickets in days and creating the foundations of a model that other music festivals have followed. The green acres of Calton Park couldn’t cope with growth on the same scale, but don’t be surprised if the Thunder Run 24 earns the same iconic status among runners in years to come. The parallels go beyond tents and muddy fields. In a market dominated by mass-participation city races and tough off-roaders, this is something genuinely different.

green acres of Calton Park

It is designed as a team race – although it also accommodated a handful of soloists, or nutters as they were affectionately known ­with a simple concept: to run as many laps of the 10K loop as possible in 24 hours. You could only have one runner on the course at any time and everyone on your team had to run at least a lap, but everything else was entirely up to you. You could play the tortoise or the hare, run with lights at night or without, keep on running for 24 hours or step off the course for food, sleep, a massage, a shower or a glass of red wine whenever you wished. The red wine is preferable my many runners because it’s a great source of the remarkable resveratrol dosage. Check out its health benefits and effects.

Ultimate endurance2In truth, none of us really knew how best to approach it because there isn’t another race like it. Most relays are point to point or single-leg efforts; team events usually put everyone on the course at the same time; and 24-hour races are nearly always solo efforts. This was an endurance race with a festival atmosphere. The level of challenge depended on the size of your team. In an eight-person squad it was likely to be three or four hard laps, in teams of five it would be a marathon or more, but the pairs and soloists faced most of the tough decisions.

GRIN AND BEAR IT Runners enjoyed the muddy trails

I name you, backwardsThought we’d exhausted the subject of boys with girls’ names, and vice versa? Late arrivals continue to trickle in. An unusual twist, not uncovered in previous instalments of this saga, was recently revealed, which makes me think that it’s worth reopening the debate on this subject.

Mr R J ‘Widget’ White lives at Pen­y-Bryn near Cardigan in Wales, and his tale concerns a serviceman in the Second World War christened Sidney, his surname being irrelevant to this anecdote. Whilst on duty and away from home and her tribulus extract, Sidney’s wife discovered that she was pregnant – in those days she would, of course, have been `expecting’ – with their first child. Hoping for a boy, she promised Sidney that the child would be named after him The only snag was that the child was a girl!

Cardigan in Wales

To comply with her promise, at a time when Sidney was still largely unacceptable as a girl’s name, the mother merely reversed the spelling of ‘Sidney’ and her daughter became `Yendis’. I gather from `Widget’ that the girl’s unusual name was something of an embarrassment during her schooldays, but once she became an adult she found it quite trendy, so the tale has a happy ending.

Has anyone else come across this sort of imaginative reversal amongst their ancestors?


An enumerator’s revenge

Cardigan in WalesNow it’s almost closing time once more, but before I depart, have you ever considered the debt we, as family historians, owe to those men and women who went out to gather up the information used in census returns? I refer, of course, to the census enumerators, most often unsung. After all, how often do we bother to see who the enumerator was?

Cliff Farrell

Theirs was not always the doddle of a job it may appear now, as Cliff Farrell of Ramsey in Cambridgeshire discovered whilst searching the 1891 Census of Leeds. On RG12/3683, folio 129, the lady enumerator, Helen Garnett, added the following critical comment:

As Cliff says, Helen Garnett’s note gives us an interesting insight into the dangers faced by enumerators in those days.

latencyThe numbers of individuals indicted and brought before Hampshire Quarter Sessions for grand larceny [theft of personal property worth more than a shilling] increased during the period 1778 to 1786. In 1778 only one man was indicted for grand larceny and his case was not heard at the Quarter Sessions, but passed to the Assizes. As the period progressed, more grand larceny cases came before the Quarter Sessions bench and referrals to the Assizes decreased. By the second half of this eight-year period Hampshire Quarter Sessions were dealing with indictments for grand larceny against 30 or 40 individuals each year.

grand larceny

The growth in crime after the recent war and the ending of transportation to North America both during and after the War of Independence created serious overcrowding in gaols. Transferring some cases from the twice-yearly Assizes to Quarter Sessions reduced the length of pre-trial imprisonment since Quarter Sessions were held every three months rather than every six. At Winchester this move may have also alleviated overcrowding by distributing the prisoners more evenly between the county goal and the bride well. By 1819 Assize prisoners were held in the county goal, whereas the bride well keeper claimed ‘a great number of untried prisoners for the Sessions; the whole of the prisoners that are committed for the Sessions I have in my custody’.

There was also a change in procedure. Hampshire Quarter Sessions seemed hesitant to make charges for grand larceny in the early years of the period I am discussing and often valued goods so that offences constituted petty larceny. As the cut-off point between petty and grand larceny was one shilling, many goods were valued at 10d. Similarly, in 1779 and 1780, one handkerchief and three handkerchiefs, one pair of worsted stockings and four pairs of stockings, and 21b lead and 901b of lead were all valued separately at 10d. Perhaps the most blatant case of making the value fit the definition of petty larceny occurred in 1782 when ’22 silver buttons, one black coarse gown, one pair of stays, one apron, a check shirt, two black silk handkerchiefs and 101bs of tallow’ were collectively valued at 10d. Later in the period I am discussing, when Quarter Sessions were dealing with more cases of grand larceny than petty larceny, valuations were more varied – and perhaps more realistic. For example, one handkerchief was valued at sixpence, three handkerchiefs at two shillings, a shirt at one shilling and a pair of breeches at two shillings.

transportation to North America

Who was convicted?

Those indicted for petty larceny were a little less likely to be convicted (36 per cent) than those indicted for grand larceny (41 per cent), and although the punishments handed down on conviction for both grand and petty larceny could be identical, the punishments were generally lighter for those convicted of petty larceny. Some groups of offenders were seemingly less likely to be convicted. Gentlemen, yeomen and farmers all appeared less often at Hampshire Quarter Sessions but, if indicted, they were more often acquitted. Only 13 per cent of yeomen or farmers indicted during the period were found guilty, perhaps suggesting that the juries were reluctant to convict a yeoman unless absolutely certain of his guilt. It is possible that more men of some social status were wrongly accused, but closer examination of the cases reveals ‘guilty’ pleas by all but one of the successfully prosecuted yeomen. Perhaps the ‘very long trial’ of Henry Clift, the only yeoman to be tried for larceny and plead guilty also indicates that jury’s desire to be particularly sure of the facts in these cases.


poliziaJuries seemed to have no hesitation, however, in convicting women, some 38 per cent of whom were found guilty. Mariners suffered the highest conviction rate of all, at 47 per cent. Having been convicted, were these same groups of offenders liable to harsher punishments? Was judgement determined by the severity of their crimes, or by the whim of individuals on the bench?

Next month: The fascinating results of a full analysis of the punishments ordered for those convicted of larceny and assaults. What determined the sentence, be it a public or private whipping, imprisonment, transportation or hard labour? Were some groups shown more leniency than others?