So much for the Gresley legacy, writes David Wilcock in Steam Railway (August edition), saying the Gresley Society has become a national target for criticism and contempt.
“The Gresley Society has earned its place in preservation’s hierarchy, if for no other reason than for its timely rescue of ex-Peterborough (New England) Gresley ‘N2’ 0-6-2T No. 69523 back in 1963, and its proud record of maintaining and operating that talisman engine over the ensuing 52 years.
In more than half a century, the 500-member Gresley Society has quietly ploughed its own furrow and offended almost nobody. Livery changes to the N2 are perhaps the closest it has come to ‘controversy’.
Now, suddenly, the Society finds itself a national target for criticism and contempt – the focus of anger and derision from a growing cross-section of people including its own members, other steam enthusiasts and even ‘ordinary’ members of the public who, until a few weeks ago, had never even heard of the Gresley Society.
They have been moved to put their names and voices to an online petition [1,860 signatures as of today] following the decision of the Society’s ruling council to remove the symbolic mallard duck from a new bronze statue of Sir Nigel Gresley due to be unveiled at King’s Cross next April, on the 75th anniversary of his passing.
That might seem at first glance to be something of a tempest in a duck pond – but emotions are running high because the mallard – an endearing and obvious allusion to Gresley’s 126mph world record breaking ‘A4’ Mallard and intended as an aid to telling the Gresley story, especially to children and young people – has been booted out at the behest of Sir Nigel’s grandson, Tim Godfrey, 76, and his younger brother Ben.
It’s a view that many people, myself included, find truly puzzling and difficult to rationalise, because the great LNER locomotive engineer’s achievements have been enshrined in British railway history for more than 75 years already – and his affection for ducks is a matter of record.”
“I wonder if, in the light of overwhelming public opinion in favour of keeping the mallard, the Gresley Society council is big enough to take the issue back to the boardroom table, and think it through again?
It might be prudent at the same time to reassess whether its core function is to perpetuate the memory and legacy of the great man – or to pander slavishly to the whims and fancies of his descendants. It can’t do both. To use a well-worn, but entirely apt phrase, it seems to me the Gresley Society has lost the plot.”