Ellee Seymour MCIPR http://elleeseymour.com PRESS CONSULTANT, JOURNALIST, GHOSTWRITER, POLITICAL AND PR BLOGGER. Fri, 23 Sep 2016 15:11:18 +0000 en-US hourly 1 11128389 The day double agent Eddie Chapman handed himself in at a Littleport farm http://elleeseymour.com/2016/01/25/day-double-agent-eddie-chapman-handed-littleport-farm/ http://elleeseymour.com/2016/01/25/day-double-agent-eddie-chapman-handed-littleport-farm/#respond Mon, 25 Jan 2016 12:57:48 +0000 http://elleeseymour.com/?p=12770 I have been researching my next book which will have a WW2 background and this led me to meet Vivien Hawes, whose father George Convine was farm manager at Apes Hall, Littleport, Cambridgeshire when double agent Eddie Chapman turned up out of the blue in the middle of the night on 16 December 1942, waking George, confessing all about his secret mission for the Germans and handing himself in to police.

For George, a special constable who was commended for his actions, it was an encounter he and his family would never forget. Vivien, who was four at the time, has kept two of Eddie’s letters sent to her parents as he kept in touch with the family after the war, returning to Littleport and taking them out for a drink at the local pub.

Vivien, now aged 77 who lives near Ely, recalls, “It was the middle of the night, Eddie looked through the windows, the Germans had been testing him beforehand and duped him.This time dropped him off in a parachute in a field near here, but he didn’t know where he was, or even what country.

“He walked up our driveway, looked through the window from the porch and saw the English telephone directory and then knew he was in England; he didn’t even know which country he was in until he saw that.  The Germans wanted him to blow up the deHavilland aircraft factory in Hatfield, and this was later faked by Eddie and the British to fool the Germans.

“Dad came downstairs after Eddie tapped on the door, he sat with Eddie Chapman, mother went to make a cup of tea as usual. Eddie had taken his haversack off and it was full of money. The noise woke me and my brother Frank, who was 14, and we looked down from the stairs.  He left a fiver for myself, my brother when he left, this was an absolute fortune in those days.

“Dad phoned the police, Littleport police came and took him away. They contacted the War Department after which Eddie became a double agent.”

According to Eddie’s obit in The Telegraph, when Eddie handed himself in to police and told his story, the duty officer replied: “Don’t be silly. Go to bed.”

Eddie’s response was, “That’s exactly what they told me last time. Ring up your station in Wisbech. They’ll remember me from last time.”

So when and how did Eddie, whose code name was Agent Zig Zag, a former safe-breaker with the notorious Jelly Gang, end up in Wisbech, my home town? I would love to know.

Vivien’s eyes light up as she recounts anecdotes about Eddie, who she describes as a ‘loveable rogue’. He definitely had a soft spot for the Convine family. This is what he wrote to them:

30 October 1953

Sloane Avenue

Kensington 7775

Dear Mrs Convine,

Thank you very much for your letter. I would very much like to meet you all again. Above is my London address and telephone number for contact. I shall only be in London for a few weeks more as I am now living in Africa.

Looking forward to seeing you.

Yours sincerely,

Eddie Chapman

The second letter was written from Hampstead General Hospital.

5 January 1957

Dear Family Convine,

The best of everything for the New Year. Thank you for (your) kind letter and sorry I am not in a position to see you when you come to London. I am delighted your daughter (Vivien) has passed her examination. If I can do anything to help in her career let me know.

I am buying a new sailing boat and when I leave hospital we will be preparing for a long cruise to Bermuda and South America. Luckily my illness is not as serious as was at first thought. Excuse me (not) writing more but I am propped up in bed – best again.

Lots of Luck

Eddie Chapman

*During the war an entire class from a school in London’s East End, plus two teachers, one of whom was called Mr Porter from Islington, were billeted to Apes Hall and Vivien would like to be reunited with them or their relatives.

The photo below was shows Vivien, aged three and the only girl, taken in 1941. She says:

“Apes Hall was a massive farm house, part of Sir Frederick Hiam’s estate. My parents, George and Martha Convine, were able to take in the class, their teachers and some land girls. The boys names we remember were Johnny, Lenny and Dennis. One of them put my finger through the wringer and I still have the scars to show. The land girls were Irene White who married Les, Dorothy, Maise and ‘Tommy’. Also on the farm was a retired reporter from the Daily Express, Mr McCall, his wife, son Robin and daughter Sheila. We would love to be in contact with any of them or their relatives.”

Vivien can be contacted on 01353 720512.


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Alan Turing’s letter to a schoolboy defining linear algebra http://elleeseymour.com/2015/11/27/alan-turings-letter-linear-algebra/ http://elleeseymour.com/2015/11/27/alan-turings-letter-linear-algebra/#respond Fri, 27 Nov 2015 08:46:28 +0000 http://elleeseymour.com/?p=12743 Sorting through a box of papers recetly, “maths genius” Lionel March stumbled across a hidden treasure – a three page letter from Alan Turing written to him when he was a schoolboy. Lionel  had created a new form of algebra which so impressed academics that it was sent to the code breaker at his computing laboratory at Manchester University.

Turing wrote two letters to Lionel, now 82, and it was thanks to Turing’s personal strong recommendation that Lionel ended up at Magdalene College, Cambridge, reading mathematics under Dennis Babbage. There he gained a first class degree in mathematics and architecture while taking an active part in Cambridge theater life.

I saw the letter last night, Turing’s explanation to Lionel that what he had stumbled across was linear algebra, and he explained the definition of this, including diagrams of multiplication tables. I wrote about Lionel’s incredible mathematical achievement once before on this post.

At the age of 18, Lionel, the son of a caretakers and a pupil at Hove Grammar School, astonished university dons by thinking out an entirely new kind of mathematics. While doodling one evening, he realised he had stumbled across a new kind of algebra which he called ‘Redmun’, and is ‘number’ spelt backwards. He was credited with using Einstein-class mathematics, yet he didn’t see anything about this to his teachers, continuing to enjoy playing sports and his active involvement with the Scouts.

The acclaimed journalist Chapman Pincher wrote about this incredible achievement in the Daily Express, describing how Lionel, who believing that his mathematical reasoning was sound, typed a complicated 16-page thesis and sent it to a university without showing it to anyone. First, it went to Dr Frank Roberts at University College London who invented the TV microscope who described it as “an outstanding contribution to mathematical theory which should be sent immediately to a still higher authority.”

And then it ended up on the desk of Turning,  chief mathematician of the “electronic brain” laboratory at at Manchester University. He was equally impressed and knew that some ‘top flight’ mathematicians were thinking along similar lines. For a schoolboy to work out the whole theory from scratch was unprecedented.

Turing told Lionel: “You have done this research with imagination and competence and I hope you will find time for more.”

Lionel later became one of Cambridge’s first computer entrepreneurs, forming Applied Research of Cambridge in 1960 with Ed Hoskins, who he recently visited in the South of France.

I’m sure Turing would have been enthralled to know of Lionel’s many successes, becoming Rector and Vice-Provost of the Royal College of Art, London and a world renowned mathematician, architectural and digital artist and professor emeritus in Design and Computation,


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Ovarian cancer and the ROCA Test http://elleeseymour.com/2015/08/20/ovarian-cancer-roca-test/ http://elleeseymour.com/2015/08/20/ovarian-cancer-roca-test/#respond Thu, 20 Aug 2015 11:53:53 +0000 http://elleeseymour.com/?p=12690 Angelina Jolie is the woman who can be credited for single-handedly doing more to raise awareness about ovarian cancer than anyone else; it never made national news headlines until she shared her personal experiences.

As a carrier of a faulty version of BRCA1 gene, and having had a double mastectomy, Jolie opted for further preventative surgery, having her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed due to the unavailability of reliable screening, knowing she had a 39% chance of developing the disease which had killed her mother at the age of 56.

Many other women make the same decision, well aware that ovarian cancer can often go undetected in its early stages because its symptoms can be vague or mistaken for other conditions. The majority of women diagnosed with the disease already have tumours which have spread beyond the ovaries. When the cancer has spread outside the pelvis, 78% of women who are diagnosed survive less than 5 years.

But now, a new ovarian cancer screening test is available in the UK, the first of its kind, and the most validated in the world, The ROCA Test (Risk of Ovarian Cancer Algorithm) is a major breakthrough for ovarian cancer screening. The test is a unique mathematical algorithm that assesses the likelihood of having ovarian cancer based on interpreting the change in CA125 levels in women developing ovarian cancer compared to levels in women who do not.

While clinicians using the traditional method of measuring CA-125 levels consider values above 35 unit per ml to be worrisome, a study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology this May reported that some women with ovarian cancer who were detected through the ROCA Test screening had levels that were below this clinically used cut-off – and 49% of such cases were stage I or II. There is no one-result-fits all, and repeated screenings using the ROCA Test will show if the CA125 levels rise at an alarming rate in relation to its original baseline level

In addition, when the ROCA Test is used with an ultrasound scan as the follow up test as the follow-up around 9 out of 10 ovarian cancers can be detected, meaning that women will have more reassurance and peace of mind.

Gynaecologists and women alike are now keenly waiting to see whether the ROCA Test, saves lives. This announcement will be made in December by renowned gynaecologist Prof Ian Jacobs who has dedicated his professional life to developing the ROCA Test. He was principal investigator of the UKCTOCS trial (United Kingdom Collaborative Trial of Ovarian Cancer Screening), the largest prospective screening trial ever to have been held which recruited 202,000 post-menopausal women for its study which spanned 15 years. He will announce the final results of the study which will reveal its mortality figures.

The ROCA Test is now being made available to women by Abcodia, a company which specialises in the development of tests that detect cancer early, via several private clinics in London, Macclesfield, Portsmouth and Bristol.

I anticipate that Dr Elizabeth Chabner Thompson, whose recent Huffington Post report described her mother’s experience of having an ovarian tumour, and her concerns about how this family history might put her at risk too, will be keen to know the final outcomes of the trial too.

She refers to the UKCTOCS study from University College London and the ovarian cancer screening test as “exciting news”, saying: “For women at high risk, this can be a very valuable test.”

Will the ROCA Test be available on the NHS? Watch this space. The Department of Health helped fund the UKCTOCS trial and is also keening waiting for its survival and mortality figures too.

Prof Jacobs hopes they will not be disappointed, stating: “My hope is that the high sensitivity and specificity in detecting ovarian cancer earlier will be sufficient to save the lives of many women who are unfortunate enough to develop this disease.”

*Ellee is a press consultant with Abcodia. This report has also been published on The Huffington Post.

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In memory of Michael Deaves and my IRA scoop http://elleeseymour.com/2015/02/11/memory-michael-deaves/ http://elleeseymour.com/2015/02/11/memory-michael-deaves/#comments Wed, 11 Feb 2015 08:52:51 +0000 http://elleeseymour.com/?p=12614 I was saddened to read that my former Cambridge News colleague Michael Deaves has died. When I first started at the News, Michael appeared rather a daunting and aloof figure, he was the paper’s university correspondent.

His sister sums him up nicely by saying: “He had a slightly macabre sense of humour. His coffin will have a lid attached to it that was made by his grandfather in the 1960s.”

Michael left the News to hold senior press officer positions at Scotland Yard and at the Home Office. And it was while he was at the Home Office that he gallantly dished me up with an exclusive story. I was working at the News one Saturday, it was almost time to go home when we heard there had been an IRA breakout from Whitemoor Prison in March. I was sent there to report on it by my editor, Robert Satchwell. Six prisoners including London gangster Andy Russell, Paul Magee and other IRA members, had escaped from the prison’s Special Secure Unit after smuggling a gun into the prison. All were later recaptured.

When I arrived at the prison my name, as well as other journalists arriving, was phoned through to the Home Office, picked up by Michael Deaves. He told the prison officer to look after me and, as a result, I was given an exclusive interview with the guard who had chased the fugatives. It was real cloak and dagger stuff as I interviewed the heroic guard in the ladies loos, just feet away from other journalists longing for such a chance themselves. The Press Association was the only media offered an interview.

As I sauntered off, having filed my report to the News, I shared my notes with a former News colleague who had just arrived for The Guardian.

While working at the News, Michael secured a big scoop himself, an interview with the Duke of Edingburgh, then Chancellor of Cambridge University.

There’s no other feeling like getting a scoop, that rush of adrenalin and quickening heartbeat.



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A literary lunch with The Shop Girls and Sandra Howard http://elleeseymour.com/2015/01/18/literary-lunch-shop-girls-sandra-howard/ http://elleeseymour.com/2015/01/18/literary-lunch-shop-girls-sandra-howard/#respond Sun, 18 Jan 2015 12:46:03 +0000 http://elleeseymour.com/?p=12595 I never imagined ten years ago when I first met the gorgeous Sandra Howard during my role as the Conservative Party’s Eastern Region Press Officer during the 2005 general election when her husband Micheal was the Tory party leader that I would one day be sharing a literary lunch platform with her.

Sandra has a beauty and aura that attracts many admirers and has achieved recognition not only for her charm, but for her writing skills too.

It is a great honour to join her and speak about The Shop Girls at The Sick Children’s Trust Cambridge Fundraising Committee literary lunch in the fabulous setting of Madingley Hall on Monday, 9 February.

The Trust has financed two new homes for families of seriously ill children at Addenbrooke’s Hosptial, Acorn House, which opened in 2000, and Chestnut House, which opened in 2013, to keep families together and continues to fund their costs. I myself have used a similar facility in London when my son was treated at Great Ormond Street Hospital, and know only too well how much it is appreciated by anxious parents.

I can’t wait to hear Sandra speak. She is a former fashion model and will talk about her varied life as wife of the former Conservative Party leader, as well as her latest novel, Tell The Girl, in which she draws on her modelling career.

Tickets cost £30 for a two-course lunch, including wine, and are available by ringing 01223 311877.

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Where are the world’s best osteomyelitis experts? http://elleeseymour.com/2015/01/08/worlds-osteomyelitis-experts/ http://elleeseymour.com/2015/01/08/worlds-osteomyelitis-experts/#comments Thu, 08 Jan 2015 10:31:31 +0000 http://elleeseymour.com/?p=12553 Where are the world’s best osteomyelitis experts? I ask this because my son David has suffered from chronic osteomyelitis in his left mandible, his jaw, for more than 11 years. It all started from an abscess in the root of a tooth, and has plagued him for half of his young life.

Yesterday David, who is now 24, had an appointment with his consultant Dr Peter Ayliffe at the Eastman Dental  Hospital in London. David has been in his care since early 2006 when he was referred initially to Mr Ayliffe’s Maxillofacial Clinic at Great Ormond Street Hospital, whose work we cannot fault.

Unfortunately for David, when he was first referred to the Maxillofacial Clinic at Addenbrooke’s Hospital, Cambridge following the abscess, his condition was not diagnosed for a very long time, and even after a bone biopsy showed David had osteomyelitis, he was not treated with antibiotics. I asked his consultant David Adlam if David could have antibiotics and was told you could not treat the bone with antibiotics. On one occasion, even though David’s jaw was considerably swollen and his jawbone visibly protruded, when we returned to the clinic as an emergency, we saw a senior registrar who refused to give David an X-ray and referred him for cognitive therapy to help him manage the pain in his mind. For two-and-a-half years while David was under Mr Adlam’s care, the only medication he took to manage the pain and inflamation was paracetamol and Diclofenac. I remember David being told it was good for him to feel this pain, as if it was part of the healing process. I saw the agony David was in, rolling on the floor in unbearable pain which I told the Maxillofacial team about. David was repeatedly asked by them if he was happy at school.

Naturally I was distraught at David’s prolonged suffering and the suggestion that David should cope with his considerable pain with cognitive therapy and requested an urgent second opinion and referral to Great Ormond Street Hospital. Once seen there by Dr Ayliffe, David was immediately given a bone scan using nuclear medicine which had never been offered to him at Addenbrooke’s and he was immediately put on strong antibiotics, Doxycyline, which he has been taking on and off ever since.

At one stage it looked promising as David was pain free for a couple of years after taking the antibiotics, thankfully while he was studying at Hull University, but the pain returned. At the end of 2013 David even tried therapy in the hyperbaric oxygen chamber at Whipp’s Cross Hospital for a gruelling three months on top of his full time job, and again, the outcome looked promising, except a year later the pain returned with a vengeance. David’s jaw was inflamed and swollen and his teeth were raised.

As a result, David had another bone biopsy at the end of last year at UCH Hospital and we had a follow up meeting yesterday with Dr Ayliffe to discuss the results. David is taking Doxycycline again, and continues to feel pain on some days, yet never taking a day off work. What options are there for David now? Mr Ayliffe could not give us a long term prognosis as David’s condition is apparently very rare, and one of only two cases which Dr Ayliffe says he has not been able to treat successfully.

I suggested a second opinion with an osteomyelitis expert, and Dr Ayliffe replied that he sees most osteomyelitis cases with young people in the country, but felt this was a good idea and agreed he would like a second opinion too; he is writing to a highly regarded colleague, Prof Piet Haers, asking if he will help.

Another suggestion is that David should be treated with ultrasound provided to oncology patients, but Mr Ayliffe said he did not know if this would be available on the NHS. The treatment has had positive results following a US study 20 years ago, but, unfortunately, there are no up-to-date osteomyelitis studies relating to the mandible as it is not “a sexy” topic, and is now a very rare infection.

Obviously we want to avoid major surgery to David’s jaw. But how can he now be treated successfully so he does not suffer for the rest of his life? Where are the best osteomyelitis experts in the world? Mr Ayliffe is very open to suggestions as David’s case is baffling, so if anyone can help, please do let me know.

People ask why has David’s infection become so deep rooted and has lasted so long. There are some clues on the NHS website which states it is crucial to diagnose the infection early and treat it effectively:

“Osteomyelitis can become chronic osteomyelitis if not treated quickly, as the bones can become permanently damaged, resulting in persistent pain and loss of function.

“If diagnosed early, osteomyelitis can be treated with antibiotics for at least four to six weeks. At first, you may have to stay in hospital to receive antibiotics, but you should be able to take them at home when you start to get better.

“In severe or chronic cases of osteomyelitis, surgery may be used in combination with antibiotics. Surgery is most often used to remove damaged bone and drain pus from wounds.”

While David was under the care of Mr Adlam’s Maxillofacial Clinic for two-and-a-half years, he was never given antibiotics. It’s not unreasonable to think that this could have led to David’s infection becoming chronic and deep seated. I see no mention on the NHS website recommending cognitive therapy to help manage osteomyelitis for teenage boys.

Despite David’s long running painful condition, he remains positive and upbeat, he never complains.  That’s David’s nature, he doesn’t need cognitive therapy to help him deal with pain by being training to think positively. We are also grateful to Dr Ayliffe for his continued care and the efforts he is making to cure this  infection once and for all.

*I do not intend to knock Addenbrooke’s Hospital, they have fantastic hard working and dedicated staff, I am simply describing our experience regarding this matter. I am a supporter of The Sick Children’s Trust, which has provided two homes on Addenbrooke’s site for families to stay in if they have seriously ill children at the hospital. I stayed in a similar apartment once opposite Great Ormond Street Hospital and know how appreciated they are during these very anxious moments.

*Update 18 March: We returned to see the consultant to discuss the referral. It wasn’t the best day. No referral has come through for David’s second opinion and no info either about the ultrasound which was mentioned at or last meeting, Mr Ayliffe kept saying it was only available on the NHS. David is being booked for a PET scan and we will know afterwards about his osteomyelitis.

I discussed this with my GP afterwards and he said that David most definitely should have a second opinion, and that ultrasound could be made available for him on the NHS if Mr Ayliffe applied for it and made a good case for David, which obviously he deserves. My view is, supported by my GP, that regardless of the outcome of the PET scan, David is not cured until he no longer needs to take antibiotics every day. Antibiotics merely suppress the infection, and I would like David to be cured of this for ever. We will try and have David referred as a private patient for his second opinion to speed this up.

*Update 24 March: So pleased I have managed to arrange a private consultation for David with Prof Haers on 8 April. A mum has to to do her best for her child.

*Update 26 April: The meeting with Prof Haers was most insightful and he has treated severe case like this  before. We were told that David has dead bone in his jaw which at some stage will need to be removed, that the blood cannot carry antibiotics there. He believes David may be fine just taking doxycycline for the next 18-24 months, but that treatment will be needed at some stage, antibiotics is not the long term answer. This is what I believed too, hence the reason for seeking a second opinion.

The treatment options he suggested in his letter to us states:

“Treatment options would in my view vonsist in wide excision of all periosteal tissue, complete decortification from the midline of the mandible towards the left angle so that hopefully new peristeal blood supply gets installed this time from muscular origin. At the same time, inlay of pellets with antibiotics for long-term treatment of at least 12 months. (I had read about this during my internet search for treatment of osteomyelitis, but it has never been mentioned before).

“The risk of this procedure is that it can lead to a pathological fracture of the mandible, that signs and symptoms of recurring chronic infection would disappear, but there is no guarantee whatsoever that one would be able to eliminate all remaining bacteria from the osteosclerotic zone below the left premolars and the first molars, nor is there any guarantee that it would definitively settle the pains, which is most likely a consequence also of narrowing and compression of the mandibular canal by the surrounding sclerotic bone.”

It means that despite this extensive treatment, there is no certainly of a cure and David could end up with a fractured jawbone, and possibly disfigurement. Prof Haers only works privately on osteomyelitis, this treatment from him is not available on the NHS. I went back to my GP to discuss the consultation and he reckons the treatment would cost £30,000 – £40,000. David does not have private health insurance and this cost is way beyond our means.

We are returning to see Peter Ayliffe at the Great Eastman Clinic to discuss this on 13 May. (Appointment postponed to 10 June).

Update 10 June 2015: It was an encouraging consultation for David as Mr Ayliffe made a new suggestion, that David has the infected jaw removed and a bioglass jaw fitted. This is composite glass that naturally promotes bone formation and reduces infection to 1%. It’s at the very early stages of clinical trials, but it sounds exciting, and could be the perfect solution. We have to wait a little longer to see the outcome of clinical trials, it is not something that needs to be done immediately, but certainly sounds preferable to the other surgery. I’m so proud of David who remains positive and update. This is real state-of-the-art maxillofacial surgery and Mr Ayliffe is the only person in the world to be working this way, so we are indeed very lucky and feel more hopeful.

In the meantime, David has to have a tooth removed where the infection has spread and is causing David pain.

50th today 005Poor David with his swollen jaw after his bone biopsy at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in July 2004.

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The Shop Girls makes Sunday Times 2014 “brilliant books” list http://elleeseymour.com/2015/01/05/shop-girls-sunday-times-brilliant-books-list/ http://elleeseymour.com/2015/01/05/shop-girls-sunday-times-brilliant-books-list/#respond Mon, 05 Jan 2015 14:39:14 +0000 http://elleeseymour.com/?p=12542 The year has got off on a terrific start with my book The Shop Girls being included in The Sunday Times selection of best reads for 2014. It is ranked second in the highlighted biography section, a total and unexpected shock, though a very pleasant one.

As you can see, my book is listed after Ben Macintyre’s, A Spy Among Friends, who I saw speak in Ely at a Topping author event and I sat rivetted throughout.

The friend I was with said, “Maybe you will be speaking here when your book comes out.”

At the time, I couldn’t imagine anything further from the truth. If I had a bucket list, a Topping event would certainly have been on my wish list, but one I thought would never happen. But it did, as well as having a sell-out launch at Heffer’s bookstore in Cambridge.

I also have a number of speaking events and appearances to promote The Shop Girls throughout 2015, including a literary lunch, literary festival and several WI meetings. I’m delighted that there is great interest in the true heartwarming stories from women who worked in an elegant ladies department store in Cambridge during the 1940s-60s which had all but faded from living memory, run by another Mr Selfridge-type character, an entrepreneur with a big secret which this book uncovers.

Perhaps it’s time I made a bucket list, after all, this just shows that dreams can come true….


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100 years on, tributes paid to Captain Scott’s friend Sir Edgar Speyer http://elleeseymour.com/2014/10/31/tributes-sir-edgar-speyer-scott-polar-research-institute/ http://elleeseymour.com/2014/10/31/tributes-sir-edgar-speyer-scott-polar-research-institute/#respond Fri, 31 Oct 2014 07:43:15 +0000 http://elleeseymour.com/?p=12504 One hundred years on, Sir Edgar Speyer has been commemorated for his support in helping to fund Captain Scott’s expeditions to the Antarctic, and for his major contribution to polar research.

It follows the unveiling of a plaque at the Scott Polar Research Institute in Cambridge where he was toasted for his philanthropy, having been exiled and airbrushed out of history after WW1 following a furore over his German ancestry.

Tribute was also paid to Prof Tony Lentin, who campaigned for recognition to be given to Speyer, by Prof Julian Dowdeswell, Director of the SPRI.

He said: “I would like to give many congratulations to Prof Tony Lentin who has written the book about Speyer and has really brought to the attention of the wider world the fact that Speyer really was indeed very badly treated by, it is fair to say, the British establishment, considering all the magnificent support he gave to Captain Scott taking expeditions to the south pole.”

The ceremony began with the ringing of the bell from the Terra Nova. This was the relief ship sent out in 1903, at Speyer’s personal expense, to rescue Scott on his first expedition in 1903 when the Discovery was stuck in the Polar Ice.  The Terra Nova was purchased for the second expedition 1910-12 by the British Antarctic Expedition, for which Speyer was Hon. Treasurer and chief fundraiser.    

The plaque was unveiled by Dr David Wilson, great nephew of Edward Wilson, who died with Scott on their fateful expedition, and is a former Chairman of the Friends of the SPRI.

He said: There’s a little note in the archive currently on show in the Friends’ room by Sir Clements Markham in about 1903 and it’s a shopping list, a list of the cost of putting together another rescue mission together to go and rescue Capt Scott’s expedition aboard Discovery which was stuck in the ice. It amounted to about £5,000 which was a lot of money in those days and there’s a little note in Markham’s hand saying ‘Edgar gave it all’.

“That to me seems to summarise Edgar Speyer very nicely. He was one of the greatest philanthropists in this country in the early part of the 20th century. He was known as the King of the Underground; it was due to his business acumen in raising the funds that a lot of great underground lines were built through London and he was also an extraordinary philanthropist in supporting the promenade concerts and the musical scene in this country and was friends with Debussy and Elgar. His musical accomplishments and achievements through his support are extraordinary.

“What is often forgotten is that we wouldn’t be standing here today if it wasn’t for Speyer’s contributions to polar exploration. Not only did he put forward the money to rescue the first expedition of Captain Scott, but then he then got to know Scott and became the treasurer of the second expedition, putting up some of his own money for the expedition, but also fund raising with his friends. Scott’s second expedition was funded largely through Speyer’s efforts, so it’s true to say that Captain Scott did the great exploring work and my great uncle headed the science team, but none of them would have been able to do it without Speyer’s backing.

“When Scott died he chose to write one of his last letters to Edgar Speyer, which I think says a very great deal about him.

“The aftermath of that was an appeal for the families and Speyer was very much behind that appeal, helping to raise the money to pay off the debts of the expedition, and, of course, it was the remains of that public fund, the Mansion House Fund, which went towards the funding of this institute.

“So it’s true to say that not only would none of Scott’s work have been done on the second expedition without Speyer’s support, and British polar research in total would look very, very different without Speyer’s contribution. We wouldn’t be standing in one of the world’s leading polar institutes if it hadn’t been for Speyer.

“But then, of course, came the First World War. He was of German descent, even though he was a naturalised British citizen, he had been a leading Liberal, he got caught up in the waves of anti-German feeling, and in the collapse of the Liberal party through the war, he was stripped of his citizenship and sent into exile, which is why I will lay money that none of you here will have heard of Speyer. He has been airbrushed out of history, and, given his contribution to this country, particularly to polar research, it is time we put that right. I thank Prof Lentin for writing his book which has done so much towards that.”

A message from Scott’s granddaughter, Dafila Scott, to Prof Lentin said:

“I am so glad that there will be a plaque unveiled at the Scott Polar Research Institute to commemorate Sir Edgar and his role in supporting my grandfather Captain Scott’s expeditions.

“His story is a fascinating one, and he was clearly a remarkable man. Hopefully this will go some way to honouring his exceptional achievements, despite the awful treatment he received.”

Prof Lentin said it had been a very special day for him.

“Really, the book was quite a simple matter. The moment I went to the National Archives and the boxes arrived, they were everything I wanted. The story told itself, all I had to do was transcribe the documents.”

Pic caption: From left, Prof Julian Dowdeswell, Prof Tony Lentin and Dr David Wilson with the plaque dedicated to Sir Edgar Speyer.

*We had great coverage from Anglia TV and BBC Look East, and I was sent these kind words afterwards from my client Prof Lentin:

“You are the first and chief person to whom I’m emailing an enormous THANK YOU for everything.  Quite simply, without you, your energy, enterprise, interpersonal and organising skills, persistence and determination, we would never have got ANY of that coverage.”

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The Shop Girls launch at Heffers makes history http://elleeseymour.com/2014/10/04/shop-girls-launch-heffers/ http://elleeseymour.com/2014/10/04/shop-girls-launch-heffers/#respond Sat, 04 Oct 2014 18:33:43 +0000 http://elleeseymour.com/?p=12449 I have been on cloud nine since the launch of The Shop Girls in Heffers fabulous bookstore, Cambridge earlier this week.

The launch was a sell-0ut, with tickets being snapped up six weeks before the event, even before I had secured some for my family, and my editor from Little Brown and agent had also missed out – until more tickets were released to meet demand.

It was very much a celebratory evening, as well as a reunion for many shop girls who had not seen each other for half a century since Heyworth’s closed its doors, the elegant ladies department store which the book is based on.

As I sat signing copies of The Shop Girls, I could barely believe my ears when I was told by an overjoyed member of staff: “You’ve made history. You should be very proud. We have sold out of every copy, and this has never happened before at an author event!”

Here are some of the kind messages that have been sent to me since:

Allan Brigham, Cambridge tour guide and historian:  “Great evening at Heffers. Many thanks for telling this story – wonderful piece of Cambridge history.”

Chris Jakes, Cambridgeshire Collection Chief Librarian: “I very much enjoyed the launch and all those sitting around me were swapping memories. Including the younger ones who regretted they didn’t know the shop – I hope they all bought copies.”

Paul Hales, son of Herbert Heyworth, who ran the store: “I would like to congratulate you on an excellent introduction to The Shop Girls.  I thought the book launch evening went off very well – everyone who was there seemed to be enthralled by it all.”

Sandy Tothill, daughter of Richard Tothill, Herbert Heyworth’s best friend: “Thank you so much for the lovely evening at Heffers, I really enjoyed myself. It was amazing to meet Paul and he reminds me very much of his father.”

Rosemary Smith, one of the lead shop girls: “It was a great evening – your presentation was both professional and very charming – there were a few tears of joy when you were speaking – especially from some of your shop girls. we’re looking forward to Ely!

Diana Lloyd: “I wanted to say straight away what a SMASHING evening it was! You are so brave and so clever! I have started reading the book already (have only been home a short time). I am thoroughly enjoying it!”

Anne Gaskell: “Congratulations on such a successful book launch! It was such an enjoyable evening – especially with the “shop girls” themselves there and ready to answer questions. When in the queue waiting for you to sign the book, I got talking to Val Haynes, who told me the very sad tale of her sister Judy. What a terrible time it must have been for her family. Val felt that the book was her way of ensuring her sister was remembered. So it has had repercussions far and wide.

“I’ve read the book and thoroughly enjoyed it. Indeed I am buying another copy or two for Christmas presents.”

Ian McKendrick, my website designer, who brought his adorable pooch Lola along: “It was a wonderful event, and thank you so much for the invitation. It was a fascinating evening, especially discovering days gone by in the history of Cambridge. I’m sure it will be a huge seller for you and the Girls, and am grateful, and honoured to have been able to give you a tiny bit of assistance in helping you to promote your endeavour.”

I am very much looking forward to my Topping bookstore event in Ely Cathedral Centre on Saturday, 25 October, from 11am, part of their Ely Literary Festival. I will be joined by my my shop girl Rosemary who used to live in Ely, and hopefully others too. Tickets can be reserved here, and the £7 admission fee includes a copy of The Shop Girls.

If you would like to know more about the golden age of retail in a bygone era, the true story of my shop girls, then do come along, I look forward to seeing you there!!!

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Good luck Heidi Allen http://elleeseymour.com/2014/09/17/good-luck-heidi-allen/ http://elleeseymour.com/2014/09/17/good-luck-heidi-allen/#respond Wed, 17 Sep 2014 12:05:22 +0000 http://elleeseymour.com/?p=12438 I am thrilled to hear the news that Heidi Allen has been shortlisted – one of four all-female candidates – as Andrew Lansley’s successor to be the next Conservative parliamentary candidate for South Cambridgeshire.

Heidi wooed and won support from party members at South East Cambridgeshire last December, she won every round of votes during the primary selection, only to be denied her hard earned victory when the result was announced and Lucy Frazer was wrongfully declared the winner instead, a result which was sustained at a follow-up meeting.  Heidi gallantly accepted the decision, it must have been an incredibly painful experience for her. Her actions showed grace and true grit, qualities we need in abundance from our political representatives.

As it turns out, Lucy is fabulous and will be a great credit to her constituents (she represents my constituency) as well as the Conservative party.

But now Heidi has a second chance for a parliamentary seat in Cambridgeshire, an area she has spent much time getting to know and hopes to represent in parliament, rejecting offers to stand in other constituencies around the country.

In the final round, Heidi is standing against Charlotte Vere, who stood against her for the South East Cambs seat, Johanna Churchill and Helen Whately.  Unlike before, there will be no open primary selection, all four finalists have been asked to be interviewed by a Special General Meeting of SCCA Members on 11 October at Cambourne Village College.

A statement on South Cambridgeshire Conservative’s website says:

“As it happens, it’s an all female shortlist – it definitely was NOT imposed upon us by anyone.  It’s simply that the Sifting Committee thought these four were the very best from a field of 102, mainly high class candidates.”

These four finalists are all terrific women who have fought hard to reach this stage. But in my mind, there is one special person who deserves this seat, and the Conservative Party should count its blessings in having Heidi stand by them after her devastating misfortune caused by their horrendous mistake. She surely deserves to win here, and keep it this time!

Good luck Heidi!

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