A year or so ago, when the Gresley Society trustees were trying to justify their decision to remove the mallard from Sir Nigel’s statue at the request of Gresley’s grandsons (Tim and Ben Godfrey), they claimed that all the Society’s Vice Presidents had made ‘adverse comments’ about the duck. The statement the trustees sent to the press and other enquirers at time said:
When we began to receive significant adverse comments on the presence of a duck at the feet of Sir Nigel from our President, all ten Vice-Presidents and senior officers at other related organisations, we quickly realised that we could not proceed without a careful re-appraisal of the project.
It was a surprise, therefore, when one of those Vice Presidents signed the petition to reinstate the mallard last summer. Sir William McAlpine, who is also Patron of the Gresley Society, had not made ‘adverse comments’ to the trustees at all; he thought the mallard was a good idea from the outset – a view he stuck to when Gresley Society Chairman David McIntosh asked him to reconsider. Sir William told McIntosh:
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.
That was last summer. Fast forward to now, and it transpires there is another pro-mallard Vice President pro-mallard: Conservative peer the Earl of Lindsay. The Earl of Lindsay’s father, Viscount Garnock owned a Gresley locomotive 61994, which was purchased direct from British Railways in December 1961. 61994 was a Gresley designed class K4 named the ‘Great Marquess’ (pictured, by Stan Laundon) introduced in 1937 for work on the West Highland Line. On the death of Viscount Garnock in 1989, Great Marquess was passed on to his son, the 16th Earl of Lindsay.
Great Marquess was subsequently sold to the Fife sheep farmer, and President of the Gresley Society, John Cameron, in 2003. When we asked the Earl of Lindsay about the statue of Sir Nigel, he said:
I strongly support the presence of a mallard. I am happy for you to share this information with others if that would be helpful. FYI, prior to your e-mail I had not been approached for my views, either by the Gresley Society Council or by anyone else. It is therefore not accurate for it to be suggested that all Vice Presidents disapproved of the mallard.
The Gresley Society trustees’ false claim about the Vice Presidents forms part of a complaint that is currently being considered by the Charity Commission.