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Archive for April, 2015

A Bath riddle

I was tempted by the appearance on an auctioneer’s website of an Edwardian trophy used as part of the prize for the 1950 Brighton Autumn Cup, with Lester Piggott’s name engraved on it by virtue of him being the winning jockey.  The guide price was £400-£500, but (apart from having nowhere to put it) what disappointed me was the 22% buyers’ premium plus 3% for bidding online.  I’m sure it wasn’t so long ago I thought that 15% was exorbitant, especially as the auction house is also paid by the seller.  And the surcharge for bidding online is a cheek.  Not to mention any VAT that’s chargeable!  Ultimately it fetched £550 (plus all those extras), but it wasn’t my money.

I have also been diverted by a riddle posed by someone at Bath about the stewards there declaring a dead horse the winner of a race, probably in the 1970s or 80s.  So far it’s got me stumped, though I haven’t finished trying to find the answer.  It’s a real time-waster but the urge to find out by myself, rather than ask the person who posed the question, is very strong.  But there is only so much time I can spend on it and if after another hour I haven’t worked it out I will have to admit defeat.

Windsor research is proceeding – there’s a lot of material online and it’s been useful to work on that in between going to four race meetings in the last fortnight.   One of them was at Windsor, when admission was free when booked in advance, and they had a huge crowd of 9,500 on a splendid fine evening. I hope to do some more active out-and-about research the week after next.

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Another of the occasional yet wonderfully unforeseeable enquiries that arise thanks to my book-writing occurred the other day.  A German art historian, writer and producer emailed me asking what I knew about foreign internees being held on Brighton racecourse in 1940.  My answer was somewhat limited, for during my original research I found just one document in the municipal archives that referred to the presence of enemy aliens, as they were then called, for a week in May 1940.  A nationwide roundup of any Germans or indeed Europeans who looked as if they could potentially have Nazi sympathies had just taken place, and many were kept temporarily in racecourses before being sent north en route to the Isle of Man and Canada.

Dr Gregory Hahn, the man who emailed me, is interested in the story of an Austrian artist called Arthur Paunzen.  As he was Jewish, he was unlikely to be a threat to British national security – as it was eventually realised with the vast majority of internees.  He had fled the Nazis by coming to England in 1938 and settling in Hove.  After being interned at the racecourse Paunzen was among those shipped off to the Isle of Man, where he died in the latter part of 1940.

Dr Hahn has already been to London and Sussex to carry out research as part of a project to tell the full story of this unfortunate man.  Coincidentally the document I was able to tell him about was one he was just about to access anyway.  He has produced a flyer asking for information from Brighton and Hove folk.  Hove Refugee Artist  A feature on the subject has been lined up with the local press for next month.

I will follow this project with interest.  Despite the fairly slim racing connection, we found via email correspondence that Dr Hahn and I had some common interests.  I hope we can meet some time, as he is bound to come over to England again.

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