Gresley Society Council’s defence of mallard decision: lies and bogosity

With the greatest respect to John Cameron, Gresley Society President and hero of steam preservation, he may well regret putting his name to an article in Steam Railway (issue 446). We understand it was in fact written by David McIntosh, the Society’s Chairman. The article, in defence of the Society’s decision to remove the mallard from Sir Nigel Gresley’s proposed statue, is full of false claims and illogical argument.

It is a response to David Wilcock’s piece in issue 443 “So much for the Gresley legacy” and is signed by Mr Cameron “on behalf of all members of the Council of the Gresley Society Trust.”  Rather than a coherent argument for removing the mallard (which we have yet to hear), it attacks Wilcock’s writing, Statue Group members Nigel Dant and Dennis Butler, and petition founder Libby Ranzetta. A classic case of playing the man (or woman) and not the ball.

Self-defeating logic

The internal logic in the article is self-defeating. Take these three points for example:

A. The article says “We believe that decisions on the statue should be controlled by financial contributors rather than simply by messages on Facebook and Twitter.” Fair enough. Let’s return to this important point in a moment.

B. According to Council, when Tim Godfrey said this to the Scotsman:

“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 was not meant as a threat. No, it was a “reasonable prediction of the likely impact on funding” if the controversy continued, “which proved to be totally accurate”.

Fair enough, you might say, except that Mr Godfrey makes it clear in the same interview he thought the Gresley Society were funding the statue (when in fact it was meant to be funded through donations.) So that defence of Mr Godfrey won’t wash.

gresleyandmallard (Copy)We are also being told here that the removal of the mallard has had a deleterious impact on funding. The donations have dried up. Remembering point A, what does this tell us about what “financial contributors” want? The people who made contributions before the mallard was removed have not been asked what they want, but one imagines they did actually like the idea of the mallard. Which brings us to point C.

C. Council say in the article there is an “unwarranted presumption that support for the statue was also support for the duck”. So, are we to believe that when Council signed-off the with-mallard design (before they all changed their minds months later), they didn’t notice the duck? Or they didn’t realise it was part of the statue?  Why did the contributions dry up when the duck was removed if all the support was really just for the man part of the statue?

Bogus claims

There are many doubtful claims in the article, for example:

1. Council claim “Only a handful of Gresley Society members have supported those in favour of the mallard duck.” This is BOGUS. The truth is that the Gresley Society haven’t actually asked rank and file members what they think. (We are in touch with many more than a handful of supporters who are also members).

2. Council claim “We have gained more new members than we have lost.”  This is DOUBTFUL. Let’s see the evidence. We know many who won’t renew their membership in April 2016 because of the statue debacle. Some of the new members have joined so their pro-mallard voices would be heard.

Sir Nigel Gresley feeding ducks3. Council claim “Statue Group members described the duck as a whimsy.” This is BOGUS.  What the Statue Group [the sub-committee charged with managing the statue project] actually said (in the submissions to Camden Council etc for planning consent) was: “This duck is no mere whimsy. It is an allusion to Sir Nigel’s most famous locomotive, the Mallard, which holds the world speed record for steam locomotives. It is also an allusion to Sir Nigel’s habit of feeding mallards at his pre-war home in Salisbury Hall”.

4. The Statue Group “had to go to great lengths to explain the justification for [the mallard’s] inclusion.” This is BOGUS and HILARIOUS. Statue Group member Nigel Dant says this is simply not true; it needed little explanation. Do council members really want us to believe they didn’t understand the symbolic link between Gresley and a mallard? Really?


5. Council claim that Dennis Butler was a member of the Statue Group for less than two months. This is BOGUS and has been refuted elsewhere – it was in reality more than 9 months.

6. Council claim “At no stage did we wish to halt the statue over what had become a controversial addition.” This is BOGUS. The fact is that the mallard was there from the start, in the design presented to and approved by council. It was not an addition, it was an integral part of Hazel Reeves’ proposed statue.

bse lner poster7. “Libby Ranzetta …did not create the gresleyduck website [this one!]. She took over the twitter feed.” Both points are BOGUS. Council seem to be confusing websites with twitter accounts and forgetting that they sanctioned @gresleyduck as part of their publicity campaign for the statue.

8.  Council claim “Now living in Bury St Edmunds, Ms Ranzetta has, in our view, no evident interest in railways, preservation or indeed, Sir Nigel.” This is BOGUS and BIZARRE. Does moving [from Watton at Stone, where Gresley lived at the end of his life] to Bury St Edmunds really invalidate any interest one might have in the great man?  Or, indeed, does living in Bury St Edmunds mean you can’t be a railway enthusiast?

sng29. Council claim “Nigel Dant’s comments on the reaction to the unveiling of the maquette [to council] in July 2014 make no distinction between the statue and the duck.” This is BOGUS and BIZARRE. What distinction? The ‘statue’, of which the maquette is a scale model, was a man and a mallard. That was the statue.

Nigel Dant recalls that one council member on seeing the maquette immediately offered to find 100 people each willing to donate £1000. There was also a suggestion at that same meeting that an appeal for £126,000 be launched (not the £95,000 necessary for the statue) thus continuing the mallard theme. Council signed off the with-mallard design and it was used in the submission for planning permission.

10. Council claim the Statue Group “omit to mention reservations expressed by organisations during the approval process about securely fixing the duck to the floor and possible safety issues over children falling off it”. This is BOGUS. The fact is that these technical issues (and others) were for Network Rail to satisfy themselves over, which they duly did prior to giving their permission for the statue (without, incidentally) any caveats.  

11. According to council, the Statue Group’s claim that the Listed Building Consent prevented changes to the statue was “questionable.” This is BOGUS. The claim was perfectively reasonable, based on the permission that was granted by Camden Council, which states quite clearly:

‘The works hereby approved are only those specifically indicated on the drawing(s) referred to above.’

The drawings – actually photo montages that featured the maquette – included the mallard. To install the statue without the mallard is technically a breach of planning law.

sp right12. Council claim “The Godfrey brothers were only advised of the statue details some four months after the maquette was publicly revealed, so no reasonable person could regard this as meaningful consultation.” This is BOGUS. The details were in the public domain once Camden Council published the planning application (including photos of the maquette) on its website as part of the planning process in the summer of 2014. The Times and Camden New Journal ran stories at that point, but this was before the permissions were granted.

As soon as the permissions were granted, in November, the Godfreys were informed of the details. If Council members were so worried about the mallard on the statue, why didn’t they discuss it with the Godfreys, given it was already in the public domain? Nobody has claimed there was ‘meaningful consultation’ with the Godfreys; the Statue Group has made it clear they did not believe it necessary or appropriate to consult anyone other than those parties without whose permission the statue would not happen about the design since it was to be a public statue not a family memorial.

13. Council says Dennis Butler makes an “outrageous claim” about the organisation of a meeting on March 4th. BOGUS He simply says he arranged with Nigel Dant and Hazel Reeves how they would present their case to the Godfreys at that meeting.

But why focus on who arranged the meeting? There are much more important points to be made about the two meetings held in early March, on the 4th and 5th. The March 4th meeting was a presentation by the Statue Group to the Godfreys, to try and persuade them of the merits of the mallard.  Council do not refute that their President, directly after the presentation, said “we will do what the Godfreys want.” Neither do they refute that the whole meeting was BOGUS because Tim Godfrey had already rung round all the Council members (apart from the Statue Group members) to secure their vote against the mallard when they met the following day to decide its fate. The presentations were a waste of time, because the outcome was a foregone conclusion; the jury had been nobbled.

grave14. The article complains of “unfair comments about the Godfrey brothers regarding their involvement in the restoration of their grandparents’ gravesBOGUS Wilcock’s original piece simply states the facts, asking:

“If the Godfreys are really so concerned about Sir Nigel’s image being ‘demeaned’, why did it take a letter to the Times from a shocked enthusiast to start a public appeal [for the graves’ restoration], in order to get something done about it?”

15. Council claim “We have always recognised that views will differ and healthy debate is to be welcomedBOGUS and HILARIOUS Where does calling all mallard supporters ‘unbalanced duck fanatics‘ fit within ‘healthy debate’?

16. Council claim they have sought “harmony and reconciliation” in this dispute. This is BOGUS. See duck fanatic comment above. Council have consistently tried to belittle critics of their statue decision.

17. Council claim the pro-mallard camp “have sadly chosen to resort to a campaign of distortion.” This BEYOND BOGUS. We have tried to present the facts at all times. One of those facts is that Council, as can be seen here, seem to have lost sight of the truth altogether.

With or without the mallard?

The Independent ran a story of the Gresley statue this week, and the corresponding article on i100 carried a poll where readers were invited to vote for or against the mallards’ inclusion in the statue. Two days later, and with over 3,500 votes, 94% are in favour of retaining the mallard.

with reader Tez Watson sent in this picture, showing both options. Which do you prefer?

McAlpine resolute in his support for the mallard

Steam Railway‘s David Wilcock reports in the October edition that Gresley Society Chairman David McIntosh wrote to Sir William McAlpine (pictured) – who is Patron of the Society – when he found out Sir William had signed the petition to get the mallard reinstated to Gresley statue. McIntosh didn’t write to apologise for saying Sir William (like all the mallard supporters) is an ‘unbalanced duck fanatic‘. He wrote instead to ask Sir William to reconsider his position, a request which was refused:

I was attracted by the statue with the duck, when it was first shown in the press. I thought it was interesting and appropriate as did many, who saw it. The duck would attract attention to the statue, which presumably was what it was intended to do. I still think so. The Godfrey brothers ….no doubt wish to show respect for the Great Man, but I think they have missed the point. The duck shows him as human and with interests other than railways.

Future generations will not know who Sir Nigel Gresley was, but would ask about the duck and would discover what he achieved.

sir william

Gresley Society member calls for apology

On the eve of a special meeting of the Gresley Society Council, comes another letter to the Chairman from a Society member unhappy with the way things have been handled over the statue. Such a heartfelt and reasonable appeal for honesty and respect should surely not be ignored:

Dear Mr McIntosh,

I have been a Gresley ‘fanatic’ for most of my life. Maybe it was in my blood, because, by a strange coincidence, my father was born in Dublin Street, Edinburgh (albeit 52 years after Sir Nigel).

Although I have lived in Gloucestershire all my life, summer holidays were spent in Fife visiting relatives, and always included a train trip from Kinghorn to Waverley. A Hornby Dublo 3-rail ‘Silver King’ helped to get me hooked at an early age, and I finally got around to joining The Society in 2013.

edinburghplaqueHaving seen the society’s plaque at Waverley a few years ago (I now take my own children to Edinburgh for holidays), I was very interested when I saw news of the proposed statue, and thought the duck to be a wonderful touch.

Then, with the arrival of The Gresley Observer a few months ago, came the slip of paper to explain that the duck was being removed due to objections from the Godfreys.

Well I cannot say I wasn’t disappointed, and I could not for the life of me understand the objection, but there it was. It wasn’t up to me, was it?

But then I began to see arguments about the statue in the press – and I became upset and very confused at The Society’s apparent stance. It appeared that ‘The Society’ (and therefore, me – as a member of that society) was not only strongly opposed to the duck, but also, launching angry verbal attacks at anyone who dared support it.

As I said, I was upset, and two things happened; I stopped reading any articles about the statue and I stopped telling people I was a member of The Society. Indeed, I was previously trying to convince a colleague he should join, but quietly dropped my campaign.

So what has changed? Why am I writing to you? Because I have recently spoken to several other members of The Society and I have learned that mine is not a unique case. Yours is the name at the foot of the articles which I find offensive. You may be the Honourable Chairman of The Society but you do not speak for me on this matter. Unless I have missed a communication somewhere, I have not been asked what I think!

trixHe would not remember me, for I was just a teenager, but I had the pleasure of meeting John Cameron at the Lochty Private Railway in the ’70s, then again at Markinch where he was good enough to allow me to crawl all over 60009 with my Kodak Instamatic and tape measure so that I could get the chimney right on the Trix model I was modifying at the time (this was before the suffocating H&S rules we have now, of course).

My first visit to the NRM was 28th Feb 1976 – the date is firmly etched upon my mind – where I again had my tape measure (this time to get the correct dimensions from Mallard’s tender for the A3 model I was building), but I am a regular visitor and I was there on July 3rd 1988 for the 50th anniversary of Mallard’s record breaking run, and, of course, I was there (with paid for exclusive access) for The Great Gathering in 2013.

As a teenager, when my friends were playing football, I would have my nose stuck in the O. S. Nock books I had spent all my pocket money on. Instead of pop stars, my bedroom walls were lined with railway maps, cards and posters of A4s – some of which are now framed and hanging in pride of place in my home, almost 40 years after I bought them.
I make regular pilgrimages to Barrow Hill when there are Gresley locomotives featuring in their events, as well as supporting preserved lines closer to home, as and when, of course.

Why did I tell you all that? Because I consider myself a Gresley enthusiast – yet, simply because I like the idea of the duck on the statue, you would brand me misguided and, first and foremost, a duck fanatic. Perhaps even a deranged zealot?

I sincerely hope that if I should read further articles on the matter, you will be making it quite clear that you do not speak for all the members of The Society! And I would think an apology for insinuating that you do so would be the very least you could do…

Yours faithfully

Gavin Stewart

thane of fife

Gresley Society accused again of secrecy

Gresley Society members have recently been frustrated in their attempts to obtain a membership list, with both Chairman and Membership Secretary saying the Data Protection Act prevents the Society from issuing the list. This is despite a statement on the Society’s website which says:

New members’ information is published in ‘The Gresley Observer’ and a membership list is periodically issued. Please let us know if you do not want your details published in this way.

The list was last issued over 7 years ago, in summer 2008.

secret squirrelGresley Society member Gavin Whitelaw, posting on the Save Gresley’s Duck Facebook page, who has repeatedly requested a membership list said:

[David] McIntosh and the rest of council have angered many members by their high handed actions and this refusal just smacks of secrecy and a considered attempt to prevent members contacting each other.

Mr Whitelaw suggests that rather the Data Protection Act being behind this situation, it appears to be more like the “Gresley Society Trust secrecy protection act!”  This is not the first time the Gresley Society has been accused of secrecy, with members querying the extent of consultation undertook before the decision was taken to remove the mallard from the proposed statue of Sir Nigel.

This fuss over the membership list fuels the suspicion that the Gresley Society Council does indeed wish to prevent members contacting each other. Earlier this year Council issued a statement saying that members were consulted before the mallard was removed, and Mr McIntosh has since said that very few members object to its removal. There seems to be little evidence for either claim.