A long term Gresley supporter speaks out

Veteran Gresley Society member Ron Vale, writing in Heritage Railway (issue 207), suggests the Society should restore the mallard on the statue of Sir Nigel Gresley and, in doing so, salvage its own reputation:

mcintosh fbDavid McIntosh (pictured) said in his letter in the July issue that he respects the views of ‘long term supporters’, of which I am presumably one, having been a member of the Gresley Society for over 25 years. I must say though that the Gresley Society has not treated its members with respect over the statue, and I feel the comments he makes in his letter cannot go unchallenged.

The first I was aware of the Council’s decision was via a rail related forum. I understand there was a small insert in the Spring issue of the Gresley Observer (the Society Journal) advising members of the councils decision, it wasn’t in mine. I would be interested in what it said. Perhaps he could forward me a copy.

The sea-change in the Council from overwhelming enthusiasm to utter horror of the duck being present looks sinister. He says it was due to pressure by The President and Vice Presidents (including the grandsons) and ‘senior officers at other related organisations’ but we have not been told who these other people are, and why they outrank the Council (who originally approved the with-mallard design unanimously) and members (who likewise approved the design, at our November AGM where the maquette was presented). So whilst the Council rejects any comments from strangers for its retention, they willingly accept the word of strangers to remove it.

Chris NettletonCouncil Member Chris Nettleton (pictured) is quoted in the Burton Mail as saying:

“The people who wanted the duck to stay were so bitter that they went to the press and broke the code of secrecy.”

Was the Council really intending to keep the removal of the mallard a secret? This is madness.

I am also unhappy at the disrespect Mr McIntosh’s letter shows towards a contributor to the statue project who expressed his disagreement with the decision. Incredibly, contributors were not consulted about the removal of the mallard either. The Gresley Society has behaved indefensibly badly, in my view, in taking the public’s money for one thing and delivering something quite different. This is not the august Society I joined.
I fear for the future of the Gresley Society when the chairman is so dismissive of the views of ‘strangers’ who have shown an interest in the statue.

Vice President Tim Godfrey clearly shares David McIntosh’s views of the public, and has also done our reputation immense damage with his outburst in the Scotsman, which, in a story about the campaign to save the mallard, reported:

“..Sir Nigel’s grandson, a duck breeder based in Shropshire, has hit out at the move.
“It’s a statue for a man, not a stupid duck,” said Tim Godfrey “I think the Flying Scotsman was just as important a locomotive as the Mallard – are they going to have a little Scotsman with a kilt and wings sitting on his shoulder?”

Mr Godfrey said the campaigners have “no business” calling for the duck to be put back in. “They are not members of the Gresley Society. They are not contributing to the cost of the statue.

“So if the general public, who have no interest in it whatsoever and who think they know better than we do, if they don’t shut up God knows what will happen. It’s a load of rubbish.”

This last comment about the general public must rate as a good contender for most arrogant quote of year. How on earth are we to sustain Sir Nigel’s legacy and fulfil our mission statement (“The advancement and education of the public in particular by the promotion of interest in the life and works of Sir Nigel Gresley”) if we actively exclude all but the current, inner circle of Gresley enthusiasts, aka ‘long term supporters’?

spencer (Copy)Finally, David McIntosh has said elsewhere with reference to the statue that ‘we have never regarded small children as a target market for our work’. Surely the children of today could be the members of tomorrow so we must nurture them. We are all getting older and if any present members of the Society are still about in 25 years time I will be surprised, and with no new blood the Society will also die. Every other preservation movement is aware of furthering the younger support except us, where it would appear we are actively discouraging interest.

I sincerely hope the Gresley Council can somehow find the courage of their earlier convictions when they approved the with-mallard statue design, and restore the mallard and the reputation of the Gresley Society.

Gresley Society Patron says keep the mallard

One of heritage railway’s best loved and most respected figures, Sir William McAlpine, has joined the thousands of people calling for the mallard to be reinstated on Sir Nigel Gresley’s proposed statue. Sir William, who is Patron of the Gresley Society, added his name last month to those petitioning the statue’s commissioners (the Gresley Society) for a change of heart over the mallard.

Sir_William_McAlpineSir William McAlpine, a former director of the construction company Sir Robert McAlpine, is best known in railway circles for rescuing the Gresley-designed A3 Flying Scotsman from a financially calamitous tour of America, getting the locomotive shipped to the UK from where it was stranded in San Francisco, and returning it to running condition. Flying Scotsman went on to enjoy mainline working here and abroad, and is currently undergoing restoration at the National Railway Museum.

Sir William runs the standard gauge Fawley HIll Railway in the grounds of his home near Henley-on-Thames, and actively supports many other heritage railway projects. He is currently chair of Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Railway, and he established and chairs the Railway Heritage Trust which was set up to assist the operational railway in its preservation and upkeep of listed buildings and structures, and to facilitate the transfer of non-operational premises and structures to outside bodies willing to undertake their preservation.

Sir William joins over 2,150 other people who have signed the petition to date, which has the support of editors Robin Jones (Heritage Railway), Nigel Harris (RAIL magazine) David Wilcock (Steam Railway Founding Editor), Nick Pigott (formerly Railway magazine); best-selling railway authors Don Hale OBE, Michael Williams and Christian Wolmar; top railway artists Malcolm Root FGRA, Philip D. Hawkins FGRA, Jonathan Clay GRA and Matthew Cousins GRA; plus leading figures in heritage railway including Andrew Scott, former Director of National Railway Museum and John Scott-Morgan, founder of the British Overseas Railways Historical Trust.

flying scotsman (Copy)

Top railway editors support the mallard on Gresley’s statue

mallard-imageThe long list of people that support the mallard on Gresley’s statue include best-selling railway authors, top railway artists, and editors from the leading heritage/railway magazines. Robin Jones of Heritage Railway, writing in the Times in April said:

London is littered with statues of the great, good and often forgotten: this symbolic addition would have made this particular one memorable and a talking point for passers-by of all ages.
I recall the great golden all-conquering take-no-prisoners eagle which stood atop the swastika on the motif of the nation which took the world speed record in 1936, reaching 124mph on a VIP trip for Nazi top brass, with some fairly unpleasant people on board.
Two years later, a locomotive named after a harmless unassuming commonplace duck snatched that speed record and kept it forever. That itself is so wonderfully British. Love a duck – especially that one!

RAIL magazine’s editor Nigel Harris said via twitter:

Art needs to be discussed to have relevance/impact. The duck would promote discussion. Just another statue otherwise.
Maturity needed. Great opportunity to create a ‘talked-about’ statue is being lost. Without the duck it’s ‘just another statue’

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Gresley Society members speak out about the ‘shaming’ statue debacle

Two Gresley Society members have written open letters to the Society’s chairman David McIntosh, in response to his comments in an interview with Steam Railway.

Ron Vale, writing on the Gresley Society’s Facebook page said:

As a long serving member of the Society I feel that your comments regarding the ‘pro duck’ group are degrading and insulting and as a result are putting the Society in a very bad light.

I feel ashamed that what is considered to be a leading Railway Society is driven to insults, no wonder members are resigning in disgust, and I submit you are the main reason for this exodus.

May I suggest that you refrain from making any more stupid comments, as a certain vice president has also been quoted in The Scotsman some time ago, and start on a damage limitation exercise for the Society. What person in his right mind would want to join an organisation whose chairman and a vice president resort to these kind of tactics? Some of the comments over the past few months have been, in my opinion ‘toe curling’ in the least, something I would not expect or tolerate from my chairman, let alone a ‘respected’ vice president.

sngGavin Whitelaw shared his letter in a comment here on gresleyduck.org said:

I am surprised and shocked at the high handed manner in which you and the council are conducting the matter of the removal of the mallard from Sir Nigel’s statue. Your statements are bringing the society into disrepute with not just the railway press, but the national press as well.

I, along with quite a significant number of members are appalled at the statements you have put out, maintaining that you are speaking on our behalf.

Can I now inform you that you are not and that it may be unwise if you continue to ignore the membership as you seem to be doing at the moment.

The appeal to the public was mounted on the assumption that the duck was part of the statue, yet you decided, with no further consultation to remove the duck from the statue. That was it. No consultation with the membership, no consultation with those that had contributed already.

The fact that you are ignoring all the negative press that the Gresley Society is receiving in various publications is appalling. The good name of the Society is being dragged through the mud purely to appease the fragile egos of the Godfrey brothers, neither of whom were old enough to know anything about Sir Nigel while he was alive.

May I remind you that it is the Gresley Society and NOT the Godfrey Society. The donations were made to ensure that the statue was erected as per the original maquette, Gresley, duck et al.

May I also remind you that you are Chairman and as spokesman therefore representing the members and patently making a very bad job of it.

It is a difficult thing to gain respect. The Gresley Society has, over the years, managed that and until this badly mishandled debacle, was a respected society. It is now almost a laughing stock and I am almost ashamed to admit I am a member.