Sunday, April 11, 2010

Serendipity and an Atlantic crossing

click photo to enlarge
One of the pleasures of stopping by a small country church that you've never visited before is the possibility of coming upon the unexpected. Here is what serendipity offered up the other day when we were travelling in Norfolk.

In the churchyard of St Mary, Rougham, was a gravestone dating from 1919 with a carving of a twin-engined biplane on it. Today it isn't unusual to find gravestones with a tractor, a car, a cricket bat or some other illustration that refers to the deceased's work or hobby. However, it is quite unusual (masonic emblems excepted) in a memorial from the early twentieth century. The stone marks the final resting place of Thomas Keppel North, and notes that he designed the first aircraft - a Vickers Vimy bomber (suitably modified) - to make a non-stop flight across the Atlantic Ocean. This feat was accomplished in June 1919 by the British fliers, Alcock and Brown, who set off from St John's, Newfoundland, and landed in a bog at Clifden, Ireland, 16 hours later having flown at an average speed of 115 mph. The aircraft designer, unfortunately, did not live to hear of their accomplishment, having died in February, a victim of the influenza epidemic of that year.

This is what is recorded on the gravestone:

Here lies all that was mortal of
youngest son of the late CHARLES NORTH
of this parish who died at Crayford in the
county of Kent on the 10th day of February
in the year of our Lord 1919. Aged 43 yrs
He was there superintendent of Vickers
works and designed the first aeroplane
to cross the Atlantic Ocean.

"Seest thou a man diligent in his business?
he shall stand before Kings: he shall not
stand before mean men."
Proverbs XXII29

photograph & text (c) T. Boughen

Photo 1 (Photo 2)
Camera: Lumix LX3 (Olympus E510)
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 5.1mm (24mm/35mm equiv.) (15mm (30mm/35mm equiv.))
F No: f2.8 (5.6)
Shutter Speed: 1/400 (1/250)
ISO: 80 (100)
Exposure Compensation: 0 (-0.3) EV
Image Stabilisation: On