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Book Review : Christmas Child by Carol Rivers

 

Regular readers will know that I often feature books by best-selling author Carol Rivers who has written a series of books about the Isle of Dogs. Carol’s gritty and heartwarming East End family dramas are greatly influenced by her grandparents who lived in Gavrick Street and then Chapel House Street on the Island. The books are widely praised for their realism and have appeared regularly in many bestseller charts and have a loyal readership in the UK and increasingly in the United States.

Recently, I was delighted to receive her latest book entitled Christmas Child which is based in Victorian London and follows the exploits of Ettie O’Reilly, who grows up in an orphanage in Poplar.

The book begins on Christmas Day 1880 in Poplar when a sick unmarried mother leaves her new born baby at the Sisters of Clemency Convent, next we move forward thirteen years and that baby is now thirteen year old Ettie O’Reilly whose protected life in the orphanage is coming to an abrupt end with the closing of the institution. The nuns had been her only family and she had enjoyed helping the nuns and helping the younger orphans helping them with their reading and writing.

When Michael, an East End street urchin arrived, Ettie tries to help him with his reading and writing, but he is difficult and has spent his whole life looking out for himself. Eventually, Michael and Ettie become good friends, and when Michael declares Ettie to be his girl, she is not unhappy.

When the Roman Catholic church decides to close the orphanage, Ettie is found a place as a maid to Lucas and Clara Benjamin, who own a smoking lounge in Soho. Michael decides to go back to life on the streets and Ettie starts her new life as a maid to the Benjamin’s.

Ettie finds that that life outside the orphanage is a challenge in more ways than one and good fortune is often followed by bad fortune. The twists and turns of Ettie’s life during next few years are fraught with danger, poverty and near death, but she is blessed in finding some true friends who seek to protect her from her mother’s fate. After being exposed to the dark side of the city, will she ever find Michael and have true happiness?

What sets Carol’s books apart from many others of the type is that she creates believable characters who represent some of the best and worst of human qualities. Carol’s books pays tribute to strong characters, often women like Ettie who will not be defeated by life’s injustices and hardships. Carol also manages to realistically portray a complex Victorian London full of great wealth and terrible poverty.

Although this fascinating and enjoyable book represents a move away from the East End family dramas, it still has a strong sense of humanity which Carol suggests can be found even in the worst environments.

I am sure that Christmas Child will be just as successful as Carol’s other books and If you would like to read buy a copy of the book, it is available here.

Carol lives in Dorset but still follows closely events on the Island and is a long time supporter of Isle of Dogs Life. If you would like to find out more about the book or other books written by Carol Rivers. Please visit her website here

Visiting the Mudchute Agricultural Show 2019 – 30th June

Summer has finally arrived and it is time to enjoy some of the outside delights of the Island. On a sleepy Sunday morning, I made my way to Mudchute Park & Farm for the Mudchute Agricultural Show 2019.

The show takes place over the weekend and allows city dwellers to enjoy some of the delights of country life.

Rare breed sheep from London’s City Farms are shown in livestock shows,

with categories such as best young handlers, primitive sheep and best lambs.

Craft creators, wood workers and dry stone wall makers are demonstrating  their crafts

and local market stall holders are selling their creations.

Visitors are treated to a large number of attractions and can enjoy a stroll around the Park & Farm . The Mudchute Agricultural Show is fast becoming one of the main highlights of the Island events year.

Mudchute Park & Farm is one of the largest inner City Farms in Europe with a wonderful collection of British rare breeds and currently home to over 100 animals and fowl. Set in 32 acres of countryside in the heart of East London, Mudchute is a community charity, with a working farm, stables and a wide range of education activities.

Mudchute Agricultural Show 2019 takes place on Saturday 29th and Sunday 30th of June between 11am – 4pm

Lower Field, Mudchute Park and Farm, Isle of Dogs ,London E14 3HP

Entry is Free

For more information, visit the Mudchute Park and Farm website here

The Changing Face of Canary Wharf – June 2019

Each year, I try to keep readers up to date with some of the latest building developments on the Island and Canary Wharf.  It has been a time when the various developments have progressed quickly and the new Canary Wharf skyline is beginning to take shape.

Whilst there are some major developments on the Island, most of the larger developments are around Millwall Dock, Marsh Wall and especially overlooking the South Dock around South Quay and the developments in Canary Wharf are taking place in the east and west fringes of the estate. Two major schemes are under development, Wood Wharf and the Newfoundland development.

Both developments have made considerable progress with the buildings steadily moving upwards, the Wood Wharf site in particular is taking shape with its distinct residential tower climbing higher  and other buildings in various states of development.

When completed the Wood Wharf site will have a mix of uses, including a residential area for over 3,200 new homes, nearly 2 million sq ft of commercial office space, and 335,000 sq ft of shops, restaurants and community uses.

At the other side of the Island, the 58-storey residential tower on the Newfoundland site is now well into construction with glass facades nearly completed.

If you think this will be tall, it will be dwarfed by the new development over the road from the Newfoundland site, it is based on the old City Arms site and is called the Landmark Pinnacle which will have 75 levels which the developers claim will be London’s largest residential tower. This will eventually be part of the Landmark complex which is situated near the site.

Along Marsh Wall are the beginnings of the Wardian towers, there will be two blocks at South Quay Plaza, Galliard are building more towers which will be part of Millharbour Village and finally there is the Madison scheme is progressing well.

It is remarkable that except for complaining about the various road and path closures and the disruption of lorries delivering materials, most people take very little notice of the various developments until they are completed.

It is worth noting that this is one of the biggest developments in the United Kingdom since Canary Wharf was built. Because most of the development has been concentrated at the top of the Island, there has not been widespread criticism, although many questions are being asked about coping with the increased population and the increase in workers coming into Canary Wharf to work.  In the next few years, it is expected the population of the Isle of Dogs will be double that of 2011. The delay to Crossrail is not likely to impact too much due to the buildings state of development in not anywhere near completion.

The history of the Isle of Dogs has been about change, however in the next decade; the whole skyline of the Isle of Dogs will change dramatically. It is part of the process that started with the building of Canary Wharf skyscrapers that seemed to change London’s attitude to tall buildings forever.

The Life-Saving Society Swimming Fete at the West India Docks – 1897

Swimming Fete at West India Docks 1895

Regular readers may know that the Isle of Dogs played an important part in the history of swimming being the birthplace of John Trudgen and the scene of many swimming competitions.

William Henry

However, the West India Docks also placed an important part in the promotion of Lifesaving in the water. William Henry who was a champion swimmer became increasingly concerned by the amount of drownings in Victorian Britain. This led him to become the founder of the Royal Lifesaving Society which was founded in 1891. The main architects of the formation of the new Society were William Henry and Archibald Sinclair who were keen to promote lifesaving. In the first year, the first lifesaving courses were introduced and a handbook of techniques produced and a national lifesaving competition was held with 24 teams competing.

By 1897, the Lifesaving Society were ready to expand their society and organised its first International Gala at the West India Dock in the presence of the Duke & Duchess of York. Competitors participated from United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, Belgium, Germany Sweden and France. Events included swimming competitions, lifesaving demonstrations and diving events.

Swimming Fete at West India Docks 1895

This was not the first time that swimming events had been held in West India Dock but was one of the largest and most prestigious.

A newspaper report from 1897 gives all the details.

Swimming Fete at the West India Docks

In the six years of its existence the Life-Saving Society has organised no more important or successful gathering than the “Diamond Jubilee International Championship Gala,” which took place at the West India Docks on July 3. Various circumstances combined to give a distinction to the occasion, not the least being the presence of the Duke of York, who is president of the society, accompanied by the Duchess of York. Although not a wealthy organisation, the Life-Saving Society has a great and widespread influence in all parts of the world where swimming clubs are established. The proceedings had been timed to begin at 3 o’clock, but long before that hour vast concourse of spectators had lined the quays of the West India Dock, and had occupied every position from which a view was obtainable.

In honor of the occasion, the warehouses and other buildings in the neighbourhood hung out flags, and the vessels in the dock made a liberal display of bunting, which gave au appearance of unusual gaiety and brightness to the generally sombre surroundings.

A most enthusiastic welcome was given to the Duke and Duchess of York, when punctually at 3 o’clock, they arrived, accompanied by Lord Knutsford and the Hon Sydney Holland, acting-president of the society. The Royal party entered the dock in the steam launch Cintra, which, besides flying the Royal Standard and the Union Jack, was tastefully decorated with flowers and. evergreens.

The first item on the programme was a display of rescue and release drill by twenty-two teams of four swimmers each. The most important event on the “card ” was the mile amateur championship, for a challenge cup, which has been held since 1893 by J. H. Tyers, Manchester Osborne S.C., champion of England, and holder of the world’s record. As events proved, however, Tyers was not to retain the championship for another year. First to get away, he was speedily challenged by J.H. Derbyshire, a member of his own club, but at the end of the first lap, he was leading by nine yards. At the third round out of the eight which made up the mile, the race lay between Tyers, Derbyshire, Arnold Toepfer (Poseidon S.C., Berlin, champion of Germany),and Percy Cavill (East Sydney S.C., champion of Australia). Very soon, however, Derbyshire, Toepfer, and Cavill fell off, and J. A. Jarvis (LeicesterS.C.), Midland Counties champion swam to the front. Tyers steered very wide, and finally the Midlands champion finished the winner by fully twenty yards. The English amateur record time for this distance is 26min 46sec. The time on Saturday was not so good, being 32min 28 sec. Jarvis  who is a house-painter by trade—is a young man of twenty-five, and he has won all the Midland County championships for the past four years. On every previous occasion when he competed for the mile championship he was placed third. He has not swum a mile for twelve months, and won Saturday’s race practically untrained.

Later events proved that in diving the Swedish representatives are unapproachable, bat the race unmistakably demonstrated the superiority of the Englishmen in strong, powerful swimming. Toepfer, the German, was the only representative from abroad, who seemed able to maintain anything like the pace of the English swimmers. Guy Seron (Brussels S.C.), the Belgian champion, Cavill, of Australia, and W. J. Stratton (Zephyr S.C.), champion of New Zealand, all fell behind early in the contest, and finished a long distance in the rear of Jarvis and Tyers.

In a special 100-Yards Scratch Race, J. Hellings (Bondi), Sydney, obtained first place, J. Hunt (May field), Manchester, second, and T. Rourke, Salford, third position. The winner’s time was 1 min 11 sec , the second and third man being respectively one and three seconds behind
him.

A 100-Yards Rescue Race was won by J. T. Savill and W. E. Wood (London and India Docks S.C.), W. W.. Green and S. W. Turner
(Pacific S.G.) being awarded second place. A 100 yards open amateur handicap was swum in four heats, the final result being:—

O. W. Payne (Polytechnic), first ;
F. G. Robinson (Neptune), second ; and
E. Eildred (York), third.

The winner received s start of 16sec.

Z. Claro (City Police), with a start of 16sec
wonthe 100yds Open Obstacle Handicap,
with S. Ross (Shakespeare) for second,
and W. Fewell (Polytechnic) in third
place.

Apart from these contests, the most interesting feature of the programme was the display of high aud fancy diving given by the twelve gentlemen who came as representatives of the Swedish Swimming Associations. It is no exaggeration to say that nothing to equal it has ever been seen in London, and it drew from the spectators round after round of the heartiest and most appreciative cheering. So great was the interest manifested in it by the Duke of York that the launch was moored out nearer to the diving platform, in order that His Royal Highness and the Duchess of York who also followed the exhibition with evident
pleasure might have a better opportunity of witnessing the performances.

Succeeding this display came a national graceful diving contest, which was won by V. Sounemans, of Brussels, H. S. Martin, of St. James, being awarded second position, and Master W. E. Webb, of the same club (a mere boy), taking third place. Sounemans, when the result was announced, offered to give an exhibition of high and fancy diving, and was rewarded with an outburst of hearty, honest English cheering, the recollection of which must always remain with him. The diving display was “sandwiched” between several minor events, and shortly after it was over the Duke and Duchess of York took their departure, having remained for fully an hour and a half, most interested spectators of the gala.

Swimming events were held in West India Dock up to the 1930s but few would have been as well attended than this one. The Royal Lifesaving Society has gone from strength to strength and runs courses and competitions all around the world. It is now a  Drowning Prevention Charity and the UK’s leading provider of water safety and drowning prevention education.

Tall Ship Tenacious in West India Dock

 

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After the visit from the Lord Nelson, we have the delight of a visit from her sister ship STS Tenacious. The Tenacious is a wooden sail training ship which was specially designed to be able to accommodate disabled sailors. Launched in Southampton in the year 2000, it is one of the largest wooden tall ships in the world. It is 65 metres long with a beam of 10.6 metres at its widest point.

Photo – Eric Pemberton

The Tenacious and the Lord Nelson  are owned by the UK-based charity the Jubilee Sailing Trust who have for many years have pioneered sailing for the disabled. The Jubilee Sailing Trust became a registered charity in 1978 and was the brainchild of Christopher Rudd, a school teacher and sailor who wanted to give the disabled children he taught the same experiences his able-bodied students had.

Photo – Eric Pemberton

Since its launch Tenacious has taken nearly 12,000 people sailing of these 3,000 were physically disabled and 1,000 were wheelchair users.

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With the Totally Thames festival in full swing, there are plenty of interest on and near the river, St Katherine’s Dock has a number of historic boats in the dock including the Havengore and Gloriana.

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Photo – Eric Pemberton

Many thanks to Eric Pemberton for the photographs of the Tenacious coming into West India Dock.

 

 

 

Race Day : The London Marathon 2018 on the Isle of Dogs – 22nd April 2018

The Isle of Dogs is thrust into the national and international spotlight once a year with the arrival of the London Marathon. In the week before the race, new boardings appear on the roadside and metal barriers arrive to be placed along the route. 

On the morning of the race, volunteers and charities take their spots along the route in eager anticipation of yet another carnival of running. People were enticed outside with the wonderful warm weather and began to take their positions along the route . The spectators on the west of the Island have the benefit of watching the runners going down Westferry Road and returning via Marsh Wall before the runners head into Canary Wharf.

The elite wheelchair races are the first to start and finish and they raced around the Island at great speed, in an exciting finish Britain’s David Weir won his eighth London Marathon in the men’s wheelchair race.

Australia’s Madison de Rozario won her first-ever London Marathon to take victory in the women’s wheelchair race.

Kenyan Vivian Cheruiyot won her first London Marathon with Kenya’s Brigid Kosgei second, Ethiopia’s Tadelech Bekele third and Great Britain’s Lily Partridge finished a creditable eighth place.

The men’s race was another win for Kenya with Eliud Kipchoge , Ethiopa’s Tola Shura Kitata was second and Britain’s Mo Farah finished third in a new British record.

After the elite races, the crowds on the Island get bigger with family and friends of the runners of the mass race taking their places along the route, other spectators come out in large numbers to offer support to the runners who face their own particular challenges, it is the mix of serious runners, celebrities, fancy dress runners and fun runners make the marathon the great success it is. Many of the runners run for their favourite charity and since 1981, competitors in the race have raised nearly 60 million pounds for various charities.

Eventually the large mass of runners dwindle down to smaller groups and spectators begin to drift away, the noise and excitement of the big day is replaced by quietness with the occasional lorry appearing on the course to take down various structures and the cleaning department picking up the tons of litter.

Congratulations to all those who took part and all the volunteers who make the London Marathon, the special event  it  is.

Stavros S Niarchos Tall Ship and French Navy ship Aramis in West India Dock

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After recent Tall Ship visitors from the United States and Mexico, it is a pleasant surprise to see the arrival of the British Tall Ship Stavros S Niarchos into the West India Dock today. The Stavros S Niarchos was last in the dock in September last year and is a regular visitor to the Thames and a familiar sight in numerous tall ship events.

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The Stavros S Niarchos is a British brig-rigged tall ship owned and operated by the Tall Ships Youth Trust. Built in 2000, she has been used to give young people the opportunity to develop skills and  talents whilst undertaking voyages to various locations. She is also available for voyages and holidays which provides revenue to maintain the operation of the ship.

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The ship has a length of  197ft , masts of 148ft  and beam of 32ft, she usually operates a crew of 69 which include regular crew and volunteers.

When she visited last year, the Stavros S Niarchos was put up for sale, it does appear that is still the case, so if you have dreamed of owning your own tall ship here is your opportunity.

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Another unexpected visitor is French Navy weapons-range safety patrol boat FS Aramis who like last week’s French visitor, the FS Scarpe is part of the Maritime Gendarmerie.

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The Maritime Gendarmerie are part of the French Navy and the ships carry out a series of duties including chasing criminal activity, protection of the naval shore establishments and Search and rescue.

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The FS Aramis was launched in 1980 and often carries a crew of around 12 including divers.

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Once again, regular contributor Eric Pemberton managed to take a couple of photos of the tall ship entering the dock.

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