Wednesday, 13 January 2021

Monthly Meeting Minutes – 13th January 2021

  The Shingle of Southsea Holmesian Society

Monthly Meeting Minutes


Date of Meeting: 13th January 2021


Location of Meeting:

The Sherloft, My House, Portsmouth, UK


Attendees:

"The Entire Canon" (Paul Thomas Miller)


Apologies:

I should think so.


Presentation:

The main presentation this week was by "The Entire Canon" (Paul Thomas Miller) who has made some startling discoveries about Holmes's last words.


Famous Last Words
by Paul Thomas Miller

I noticed recently that if you list the last word of every story in The Canon in publication order you get the following enigmatic paragraph:

Arca it woman sand world past star breakfast feature conscience existence evenings punishment success you ever you police service seas to-morrow Samuel print avenged trust known way presents turn estate justice pocket later window solution rise embassy day night door horrible plans speech act career place veil can possible taught it Holmes emerged dock hands shock yard told it age

Now, that does not seem terribly impressive, but I tried adding some punctuation convinced that this would produce a secret sixty-first story. Here's how it turned out:

"Arca it, woman!"
Sand-world past star-breakfast.
Feature conscience, existence evenings, punishment success.
You. Ever you.
Police service seas to-morrow.
Samuel print avenged.
Trust known way presents turn.
Estate justice; pocket later.
Window solution. Rise embassy.
Day, night, door. Horrible plans.
Speech act? Career-Place-Veil can!
Possible? Taught it.
Holmes emerged! Dock-hands shock yard. Told it age.

Nope. Still made no sense.
But then I tried shuffling the words up and I got a poem which is so deep I don't understand it. Proof, if it were needed that The Canon is a work of genius.

Acra Yard
(A hidden poem found by Paul Thomas Miller)

Embassy told police
"Trust punishment"...
Pocket woman emerged avenged.

It taught service.
You print "Shock!"
It hands justice.
You can dock.

Possible night past horrible day,
To-morrow ever presents evening's later way.

Rise star!
Turn seas!
Breakfast world!

Conscience speech:
Feature sand success.
Estate plans career window,
Place it, Samuel Holmes.

Act. Age.
Veil existence.

Acra Yard.

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Announcements:

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Friday, 4 December 2020

Monthly Meeting Minutes – 4th December 2020

The Shingle of Southsea Holmesian Society

Monthly Meeting Minutes

 

Date of Meeting: 4th December 2020

 

Location of Meeting:

My House, Portsmouth, UK

 

Attendees:

"The Entire Canon" (Paul Thomas Miller)

 

Apologies:

Whoever came up with that Elf on the Shelf nonsense needs to apologise. My Facebook timeline is now flooded with stupid people’s “cute” photos of the “amazing” “creative” “ideas” “they came up with”.

 

Shingle of Southsea Games Night:

For Christmas 2020 we decided to replace the usual Shingle’s presentation with a games night. Brenda The Headless Mannequin was invited back to partake of the festivities and we took her silence as confirmation that she would be thrilled to attend.

 

Game One: Monotony

Played with a standard Monopoly board. The winner is the player who can resist rolling the dice for the longest period of time. Brenda won.

 

Game Two: Canonical Quiz

One of our members set the quiz, reproduced below. Printed copies were handed out to all attendees. The quiz consisted of 10 questions about the entire Canon.

1. What was the name of Colonel Barclay’s Aldershot Home?

2. In which story does Watson brandish an egg-spoon?

3. How many shotguns feature in the entire Canon?

4. There are twenty-three ejaculations in the Canon, but who ejaculates the most?

5. There were four women called Violet in the Canon, but only one woman had violet eyes. Who?

6. Where was Doctor Watson shot? His leg or his arm?

7. In how many stories does Holmes mention his little monograph on the ashes of 140 different varieties of pipe, cigar, and cigarette tobacco?

8. At the end of STOC, which edible plant does Mr. Pinner resemble?

9. In Wisteria Lodge, what are our own colours?

10. Which is the best story in the Canon?

 

The answers can be found at the very end of these minutes.

At our event Paul Thomas Miller (The Entire Canon) scored 100%, while Brenda left her page blank and scored 0%. Paul Thomas Miller (The Entire Canon) won.

 

Game Three: Wheel of Gravy

The traditional Sherlockian game of Wheel of Gravy has to be played at any serious Holmesian Festivities and ours was no exception. We used a standard wheel and beef gravy.

Brenda won.

 

Game Four: Name a Pub

A new Holmesian game! Players take it in turns to name a pub from the Canon until finally no one can think of any more.

Paul Thomas Miller (The Entire Canon) won when he pointed out that every single pub in the Canon is called The Chequers.

 

The scores were tied. Two all. The final game was a tie breaker.

 

Game Five: The 100m Holmes-Draw Dash

Contestants were required to run 100 meters while drawing a picture of Sherlock Holmes. Paul Thomas Miller (The Entire Canon) won by default when Brenda refused to run. Here is his winning picture:

 



The meeting was concluded by a return to The Sherloft for mulled wine and general praise for our victorious champion; Paul Thomas Miller (The Entire Canon). Sadly Brenda had to be ejected after making some spurious allegations about other members.

 














Here are the answers to the quiz:

1. Lachine

2. A Study in Scarlet

3. Two – one in STUD and one in VALL

4. Watson (12 times) [followed by Holmes(7), Tadpole Phelps (3) and Neville St. Clair (1)]

5. Miss Alice Turner (BOSC)

6. Neither. He was shot in Afghanistan and in Nathan Garrideb’s rooms.

7. Two – STUD and BOSC

8. An Arty Choke.

9. Green and white.

10. The Mazarin Stone.

 

Saturday, 21 November 2020

Monthly Meeting Minutes – 21st November 2020

 The Shingle of Southsea Holmesian Society

Monthly Meeting Minutes


Date of Meeting: 21st November 2020


Location of Meeting:

The Sherloft, My House, Portsmouth, UK


Attendees:

"The Entire Canon" (Paul Thomas Miller)


Apologies:

No.


Presentation:

"The Entire Canon" (Paul Thomas Miller) shared a song he made:



Then everyone went because it was cold.


Tuesday, 27 October 2020

Monthly Meeting Minutes – 27th October 2020


The Shingle of Southsea Holmesian Society

Monthly Meeting Minutes


Date of Meeting: 27th October 2020


Location of Meeting:

The Sherloft, My House, Portsmouth, UK


Attendees:

"The Entire Canon" (Paul Thomas Miller)


Apologies:

I'm sorry it has come to this.


Activity:

"The Entire Canon" (Paul Thomas Miller) hosted a Halloween art evening. All the members had a go at drawing a spooky Holmesian scene. A vote was taken and all members agreed that "The Entire Canon" (Paul Thomas Miller)'s picture was the best.

He had drawn a scene from that story where Holmes' chin kept growing and Watson had to shoot it to stop it taking over the world.



Saturday, 26 September 2020

Monthly Meeting Minutes – 26th September 2020

 No meeting this month because one of our members got one of our members pregnant and they've had to hide themselves away in shame. Instead, here is a song about the Ronald Howard Sherlock Holmes series.


Sunday, 9 August 2020

Monthly Meeting Minutes – 9th August 2020

After the disgusting behavior exhibited at last month's Shingle of Southsea meeting Paul Thomas Miller (The Entire Canon) has been suspended from The Shingle of Southsea for a month. Paul Thomas Miller (The Entire Canon) has expressed his sincere apologies and promises to use the next month to educate himself on the importance of mask use during the COVID-19 pandemic. He has also enrolled himself on an anger management course. Paul Thomas Miller (The Entire Canon) has accepted Paul Thomas Miller's (The Entire Canon) apology and decided not to press criminal charges.


Unfortunately this meant there were no members able to attend the August meeting. Instead please enjoy this report from Paul Thomas Miller (The Entire Canon) about his recent trip to Poldhu Bay and his new candidate for the residence of George, Owen and Brenda Tregennis.


Cornwall and The Devil's Foot

by Paul Thomas Miller (The Entire Canon)

(Note: you can click on any of the pictures below to see them enbiggened.)


I spent the week from 1st to 8th August 2020 on a fact finding mission in the area of Poldhu Cove, Cornwall - the site of one of my favourite Canonical adventures: The Devil's Foot. My main intention was to discover the home of George, Owen and Brenda Tregennis. It seems to be generally accepted that this is Predannack Manor Farm, but this does not seem right to me for reasons I shall discuss later. But I also used the opportunity to check out several other key locations from the adventure while I was there. It was a wonderful week in wonderful countryside and I thoroughly enjoyed every second of it.


Poldhu Bay

“…Thus it was that in the early spring of that year [1897] we found ourselves together in a small cottage near Poldhu Bay, at the further extremity of the Cornish peninsula.”

The story opens with Holmes and Watson in the area of Poldhu Bay. This is actually Poldhu Cove and is located on the South-West coast of the Lizard peninsula, near the village of Mullion.

When I visited it was very busy and touristy and due to the current Coronavirus pandemic, I wasn't keen on hanging around in busy places. I popped down to get a sample of sand as a souvenir, took a few pictures and left to visit quieter places. With a little imagination it was possible to picture the lonely cove of 1897 surrounded by black cliffs. At once both ominous and beautiful.

The recording of "Poldhu Bay" instead of "Poldhu Cove" is a simple error on Watson’s part caused no doubt by “bay” and “cove” being synonymous. He was also likely influenced by “bay” being a much more common word in England. In case there is any doubt that they are the same place consider Watson's description of the area:

“On the land side our surroundings were as sombre as on the sea. It was a country of rolling moors, lonely and dun-coloured, with an occasional church tower to mark the site of some old-world village. In every direction upon these moors there were traces of some vanished race which had passed utterly away, and left as it sole record strange monuments of stone, irregular mounds which contained the burned ashes of the dead, and curious earthworks which hinted at prehistoric strife.”

The area is surrounded by rolling moors, some of which have been turned to agriculture. Personally, I would not have termed them "dun-coloured". But I was there in August and Watson was there in March. Perhaps the full majesty of nature hadn't presented itself that early in Spring.


A look at the Ordnance Survey map for the area shows the "occasional church tower"s of the area. Of particular note are the nearby ancient churches of St. Winwaloe in Gunwalloe Church Cove and St. Mellanus in Mullion.

The "...traces of some vanished race... strange monuments of stone..." were also evident everywhere:


Poldhu Cottage

“It was a singular spot, and one peculiarly well suited to the grim humour of my patient. From the windows of our little whitewashed house, which stood high upon a grassy headland, we looked down upon the whole sinister semicircle of Mounts Bay, that old death trap of sailing vessels, with its fringe of black cliffs and surge-swept reefs on which innumerable seamen have met their end.”

I think Watson refers to this as Poldhu Cottage simply because it is a cottage by Poldhu Cove. It is not intended as an accurate title, merely a description. In The Game is Afoot (1983), David L. Hammer identified Poldhu Cottage as Craig-A-Bella - a cottage just a 200 meter walk from the cove. He even claimed that it dated from the 1800s. However, in The Worth of the Game (1993) he returned to Craig-A-Bella and spoke with the owner, Barbara Jupp, who claimed it had been built in 1902. For this reason he changed his mind and decided it was not Poldhu Cottage after all.

Having visited the Craig-A-Bella, I think Hammer was right in the first place.

Craig-A-Bella is a lovely "little whitewashed house".


You can see from this photograph that Craig-A-Bella "stood high upon a grassy headland" looking down on Poldhu Bay.

Finally, the from the front of the cottage I "looked down upon the whole sinister semicircle of Mounts Bay".

Against all this evidence we have one person's unverified claim that the cottage was built five years too late. In the tiny bit of research I have done, I've been unable to confirm when it was built. However, if I found paperwork that suggested it was built in 1902, the similarity to Poldhu Cottage is so strong I would believe the paperwork incorrect. I maintain that this is definitely the Poldhu Cottage Holmes and Watson stayed in.


Tredannick Wollas 

“I have said that scattered towers marked the villages which dotted this part of Cornwall. The nearest of these was the hamlet of Tredannick Wollas, where the cottages of a couple of hundred inhabitants clustered round an ancient, moss-grown church.”

A quick look at any map tells us that the nearest village to Poldhu Cove is Mullion. I suspect the village name was disguised to protect Mr. Roundhay from unwanted attention when the details of the incident were published in The Strand.

However, I am interested in where Watson got the colourful name “Tredannick Wollas”. "Predannack Wollas" is nearby. As is "Trewennack". It looks to me like Watson took the names of genuine local places and mashed them up to create his fake place names. There are other examples of this later.

The "moss-grown church" must have been St. Mellanus - a church which dates back to the thirteenth century. It has been cleaned at some point since 1897 as there is not much moss on it anymore and there have been additions made too, but they are in keeping with the church's atmosphere.

The Vicarage in Tredannick Wollas

“the clergyman's … large, straggling house.”

“The lodger occupied two rooms at the vicarage, which were in an angle by themselves, the one above the other. Below was a large sitting-room; above, his bedroom. They looked out upon a croquet lawn which came up to the windows.”

“At the vicarage you passed through the orchard and the side hedge, coming out under the window of the lodger Tregennis.”

This is the home of the client – Mr. Roundhay, parish vicar – and the villain - Mr. Mortimer Tregennis. It isn't difficult to identify - The Old Vicarage is now a B&B. It is situated just down the road from St. Mellanus and was built in the early 1800s. 

You can still see that it has always been a "large, straggling house" but now a gravel path cuts across what was once "a croquet lawn which came up to the windows."

From the road you can see Mortimer Tregennis's "two rooms at the vicarage, which were in an angle by themselves, the one above the other".

And while the orchard is no longer there, from the rear of the building ( having been replaced by a small terrace of houses) you can see "the side hedge, coming out under the window of the lodger Tregennis."

Tredannick Wartha

“…Owen and George, and of his sister Brenda, at their house of Tredannick Wartha, which is near the old stone cross upon the moor.”

The "old stone cross" is very easy to find as it is marked on all maps of the area. It is known as Predannack Cross and is believed to have been first erected sometime between the 9th to 15th centuries AD. At some point it collapsed but the parts remained in place. It was re-erected and secured with metal wedges in 1852.

Having found the stone cross, I turned my attention to identifying the Tregennis house.

“The approach to the spot at which the tragedy occurred is down a narrow, winding, country lane.”

This doesn't provide much of a clue. Every residence near Predannack Cross "is down a narrow, winding, country lane."

The popular consensus to date appears to be that the farm near to the cross called Predannack Manor Farm is the original of Tredannick Wartha (see, for example, Hammer in The Worth of the Game). The logic for this seems to be because it is near the cross and it sounds a bit like Tredannick. I take issue with this reasoning. While Predannack may have inspired the fake name, this does not mean it must be the original. In fact, the name is just as likely to come from a mash-up of Trewennack and Roskilling Wartha located seven miles to the north of the cross.

It should be noted that there are four significant dwellings that can be reasonably described as "near the old stone cross": Predannack Manor Farm (200 meters away), Higher Predannack Farm (260 meters away), Tenerife Farm (367 meters away) and Caunce Head (188 meters away). Three of these should be immediately discounted based on the following quote from the Adventure:

“…when she [Mrs. Porter] recovered, thrown open the window to let the morning air in, and had run down to the lane, whence she sent a farm-lad for the doctor.”

If Treddanick Wartha was itself a farm, Mrs. Porter would have no need to run down to the lane to fetch a farm-lad. She would just have to lean out of the open window and call one. Make no mistake, the buildings of Predannack Manor Farm, Higher Predannack Farm and Tenerife Farm are surrounded by their own farms. This is not an issue of the farm-lads work being situated away from the buildings. These leaves only one contender for the real Tredannick Wartha - Caunce Head.

“It was a large and bright dwelling, rather a villa than a cottage, with a considerable garden which was already, in that Cornish air, well filled with spring flowers. Towards this garden the window of the sitting-room fronted…”

And Caunce Head matched up to the description of Tredannick Wartha pretty well. It isn't a massive building but I managed to track down an online listing of the property from 2018 on Zoopla which show that it is a good-sized, bright airy building. The word "cottage" used to be used to indicate a bungalow. Caunce Head is a two story dwelling so this accounts for Watson's "rather a villa than a cottage". It also does have a considerable and pretty garden at both the front and rear of the house.

Consider too, that Roundhay used "near the old stone cross upon the moor" as a way to indicate which building he meant. He is unlikely to mean a house that is the second or third closest to the cross and there is no building closer than Caunce Head. In fact, you can see one from the other. Here is a picture in which a handsome man points both to Predannack Cross on the left and Caunce Head on the right.

"As we sat at the table my back was to the window, and my brother George, he being my partner at cards, was facing it."

That 2018 Zoopla listing also provided a few photographs on the interior. Among them is this picture of the sitting room where Mortimer and his kin would have played their game of whist. You can see the window on the left which his brother faced. You can also see how, with his back to the window, Mortimer would have had easy access to the fireplace to his left. (The front door, incidentally, is directly to the left of the camera, enabling a quick exit once he had deposited his deadly load in the fire.)

“Mr. Tregennis, I take it you were divided in some way from your family, since they lived together and you had rooms apart?”

“That is so, Mr. Holmes, though the matter is past and done with. We were a family of tin-miners at Redruth, but we sold our venture to a company, and so retired with enough to keep us. I won't deny that there was some feeling about the division of the money and it stood between us for a time, but it was all forgiven and forgotten, and we were the best of friends together.”

Mortimer fell out with his three siblings before they moved from Redruth to Mullion. Therefore, we need not expect there to be a bedroom at Tredannick Wartha for him. But Mrs. Porter was a live in housekeeper so we should expect it to have at least four bedrooms. That handy Zoopla listing reveals that Caunce Head does indeed have four bedrooms.

Against all this evidence there is one other conversation to consider which took place between Holmes and Roundhay in Poldhu Cottage:

“How far is it to the house where this singular tragedy occurred?”

“About a mile inland.”

Roundhay seems to be suggesting that Treddanick Wartha is about one mile from Poldhu Cottage. However, Caunce Head is about two miles from Craig-A-Bella. However, we must remember that Roundhay was an excitable chap who saw Satan in the shadows and generally acted the garrulous fool. He didn't know his radix from his pedis at the time this conversation took place so we shouldn't trust his measurements too much. The same applies to his suggestion that the house is East ("inland") whereas it is actually to the South.

In summary then, for my money Treddanick Wartha is Caunce Head.


Dr Leon Sterndale’s Cottage

“…it was well known that it was [Dr Leon Sterndale’s] love of seclusion which caused him to spend the greater part of the intervals between his journeys in a small bungalow buried in the lonely wood of Beauchamp Arriance.”

First, a word about the popular choice of Venton Arriance - a dwelling just a little North-East of Mullion - as Sterndale's cottage. It is not in woods. It is not lonely. It's only similarity is the name. But Beauchamp Arriance is supposed to be the name of the woods, not the cottage. It just doesn't work as a candidate. I suspect, however, that Watson did make up the fictional "Beauchamp Arriance" name as a mash up of Venton Arriance and Beauchamps Meadow, which is near Redruth.

“…the mile which separated you from the vicarage.”

Holmes gives us the “mile… from the vicarage” for this location, so it is a good deal more trustworthy. I drew a one mile circle around the vicarage on an Ordnance Survey map and found that the woods NNE looked particularly suggestive of the “lonely woods”. Tucked away inside them is Lampra Mill Cottage. I had an exciting hike down overgrown footpaths to Lampra Mill from Cury. Along the way I encountered several examples of "reddish gravel", though none was "lying heaped beside [Lampra Mill’s] gate." No doubt the heap has long since been used for some purpose and the samples I took were merely remnants of it. Lampra Mill itself lay at the end of stepping stones across a brook and a steep hill path. It is difficult to conceive of any other dwelling which could be more accurately described as "buried in [a] lonely wood".


There is no doubt in my mind that Dr. Leon Sterndale's "Cornish seclusion" was based at Lampra Mill Cottage.


Helston

“My brothers!” cried Mortimer Tregennis, white to his lips. “They are taking them to Helston.”

When I looked into it this outburst confused me, because there seemed to be no hospital or asylum in Helston in the 1890s for the brothers to be taken to. However, I discovered on historicengland.org.uk that it was common practice in those times for "lunatics" to be taken to workhouses. And Helston had the Helston Union Workhouse which was built in 1858.

I did a little research in the British Newspaper Archive and discovered several distressing stories which reveal that it was indeed common practice in the 1880s and 1890s to take "lunatics" to Helston Union Workhouse. Some were kept there in the infirmary but many were eventually transferred to Bodmin Asylum. This is very likely what happened to Owen and George Tregennis. Bodmin Asylum (also known as St. Lawrence's) opened in 1820 but was demolished in the 1990s. However, I did get to visit the brothers' first stop - Helston Union Workhouse. It is now known as Meneage House, having been converted into flats in 2000, which explain the signs of domestic life. However, the imposing Victorian architecture is still a daunting sight and you can imagine how Owen and George's terror would have increased as they were locked away within its walls.



Sunday, 19 July 2020

Monthly Meeting Minutes – 19th July 2020

Now that easing is in place, 19th July 2020 was supposed to be the Shingle of Southsea's first meeting since the COVID Lockdown. Unfortunately when our member turned up he refused to comply with society policy on wearing a face mask in The Sherloft. Things turned physical and the meeting had to be cancelled.Fortunately the entire incident was caught on camera and the Shingle of Southsea board will be considering whether to take further action based on the evidence caught in the video.





Instead, here is a video Paul Thomas Miller (The Entire Canon) made celebrating Howard Marion Crawford's interpretation of Watson from 1954: