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.
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.
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?
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.
3. 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.
7. “Libby Ranzetta …did not create the gresleyduck website [this one!]. She took over the gresley.org 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?
9. 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.
12. 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.
14. The article complains of “unfair comments about the Godfrey brothers regarding their involvement in the restoration of their grandparents’ graves” BOGUS 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 welcomed” BOGUS 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.