No mallard for the unveiling, but there’s good news

veiledWith the unveiling of Sir Nigel Gresley’s statue today (5th April) at 11am, without the mallard, this seems an appropriate time to thank supporters for their interest and support in the campaign to ‘save Gresley’s duck.’

Whilst it’s not the statue we all hoped for, we understand Gresley Society members are at last to be asked for their views on the mallard, and so there is a chance it could yet be installed alongside Sir Nigel at a later stage.

This would not have happened without our calls for a change of heart in the Gresley Society trustees. We are hopeful too that some new, pro-mallard, trustees will shortly be co-opted onto the Society’s ruling Council, albeit some 4 months after the AGM when their nominations were inexplicably rejected.

As soon as the details of the consultation of members are announced formally, I propose to close the petition and present it to Council to inform their deliberations.

n2 duck 3The bronze Sir Nigel Gresley is now in place on the Western Concourse at Kings Cross (photo by Robin Simpson), under wraps and awaiting the arrival of the Society’s locomotive Class N2 No.1744 in light steam (pictured) at Platform 8, accompanied by Gresley Restaurant Carriage No.7960.

Doubtless this is a fine sculpture, and I am sure we would all wish to congratulate the sculptor, Hazel Reeves, on her achievement, and hope the day is a fitting celebration of her work, and of course, of the great man, Sir Nigel Gresley himself.


Charity Commission duck action over foul play

Campaigners involved in a controversial statue of Sir Nigel Gresley – due to be unveiled at King’s Cross station on Tuesday 5th – have been angered by the Charity Commission’s decision not to sanction trustees of the Gresley Society, who the campaigners say have lied, acted illegally and taken money under false pretences.

statue appeal ad

This image of the statue – with mallard – featured on the Gresley Society website’s fundraising page for 3 months AFTER the trustees decided to remove the mallard

The row over the statue began a year ago when the trustees removed a mallard duck from the planned statue of the railway engineer – because Gresley’s grandsons said it was ‘demeaning’. But by this point, the Gresley Society was three months into a fundraising appeal for the £95k statue (including duck), and the decision prompted a furore with three trustees resigning in protest and the start of an online petition.

The remaining trustees have refused to reconsider their decision, however, despite support for the petition (over 3,200 signatures) and many eminent people, including two Gresley Society Vice Presidents (Sir William McAlpine and Lord Lindsay) speaking out in favour of the mallard’s inclusion.

Leading campaigner Libby Ranzetta said:

“The Gresley Society trustees have gone to extraordinary lengths to defend their decision to remove the mallard from the statue, including breaking the law. It is disappointing that the Charity Commission doesn’t view this behaviour as sufficiently serious or damaging to the reputation of charities to take action. It makes you wonder how bad a charity would need to be before they were interested.”

Gresley Society member Ron Vale said:

“The Charity Commission tell us the issues raised in the complaint should be resolved within the charity – but members have been lied to, prevented from contacting one another and denied any say in the statue decision. How can anything be resolved while these trustees are prepared to flout all the rules to get their way?”

Another Gresley Society grandee speaks out for the mallard

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:

Sir_William_McAlpineI 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:

earl of lindsayI 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.

First rule of the Gresley Society: don’t talk about the statue

Some Gresley Society members have been trying for a while to get a copy of the membership list, which according to the GS website is published periodically.
The requests for the list were refused for various reasons, Initially we were told the list was not in a “suitable format which can be circulated”. (The Membership Secretary said “the last such booklet was distributed to members in June 2008 and I regret I have not got round to replacing this with up to date information.”)

Then the problem was data protection, with the Chairman saying:“Your demand for [a] membership [list] is asking us to act illegally, we cannot supply this information without the prior permission of members.”

More recently, the excuse from the Chairman was: “To have a membership list you have to meet several legal requirements and one will be supplied when you comply with them, and not before.” When we asked him at the AGM what the legal requirements were. He replied: “It’s not for us to tell you; you can find out for yourselves.”

So a member made a formal request under section 116 of the Companies Act 2006, saying the list would be used to contact others to further his knowledge of Gresley. And got an extraordinary reply from the Gresley Society Secretary, including this extract:

“if we believe the information is requested for an improper purpose we could apply to court to direct that we do not comply with your request. However, on the basis that you have only requested the information to converse with like minded members to further your knowledge of Sir Nigel Gresley, and that this is the only reason for which the information will be used, we are of the view that this is a proper purpose to disclose the information to you.


We would note, however, in making this decision that we have considered the risk of you using the information for other purposes, especially given concerns raised by members in the past of unsolicited correspondence regarding other matters. In particular we assume (on the basis that you do not mention this) that you do not intend to contact members on an unsolicited basis in respect of the current disputes surrounding the status of the statue proposed of Sir Nigel.

first rule of the gresley society
As it is an offence to knowingly or recklessly make in a request such as yours a statement that is misleading, false or deceptive in a material particular (pursuant to section 119(1) Companies Act 2006) or to disclose information to someone who could use the information other than for a proper purpose, in each case with liability for such an offence being a maximum of two years imprisonment and/or a fine on indictment, we have taken the view that the sole purpose for your request is to converse with members who have a similar mindset to you, in respect of Sir Nigel Gresley himself, and trust you will limit your use of the information to this, and not disclose the members list to others.”


The member replied on 16th Feb:

“Now, on reflection and your wish to pursue me through the court should I divulge the contents of the list, or use it for a purpose you see unfit […] I have changed my mind on why I wish to use it.  [..] So my reason for the request is now “in order to canvas members’ opinions about the mallard prior to requesting a poll”

I wish to do this because, despite spending £95,000 of the members money on the statue GST have consistently refused a members’ decision.”

He has yet to receive a reply.

Gresley Society AGM part 1: off to a bad start

We’ve been looking at the ins and outs of the Gresley Society AGM, held in London last December, in connection with a complaint to the Charity Commission. A lot of people who attended were shocked at the way it was run, for reasons which will become clear over the coming days.

It was obvious at the time that the trustees were determined to get their way over the statue and over the election of trustees – whatever their members thought. The way they achieved this was absolutely ruthless and, we contend, in large part illegal.
How were the trustees ruthless in pursuit of what they wanted? Well, let’s start with just one example, which gives a flavour of how things went.

The Gresley Society AGM is normally tagged on to a talk of interest to GS members, which is also open to the public. The AGM notice on the GS website is still there as of 12:47h today, and there is nothing to suggest the meeting was to be members only. Nor was there any mention of this in the notices of the meeting that appeared in the house magazine, the Gresley Observer.

One member from Gloucestershire had been nominated to stand for election as trustee and was accompanied to the meeting by his wife. The couple had driven up to London that morning, directly after she had finished work (on a night shift).

The couple, like the other attendees, were checked-in just outside the meeting room and took their seats inside. As the proceedings got under way, the Chairman announced the meeting was for members only, and said any non-members must leave the room. He said ‘we know there is a non-member present.’ And so, the poor woman was evicted from the room, all eyes on her as she walked out into a cold winter afternoon.

Why did the trustees think that was necessary? Perhaps it was designed to set the tone for the rest of the meeting. In fact, the rest of the meeting was even more unpleasant.

To be continued…

20151205_130446 (Copy)

Gresley Society trustees (L to R): Peter Beynon, Ian MacCabe, David McIntosh, Philip Benham, Graeme Bunker, Mike Foreman. Chris Nettleton (not pictured) was on sentry duty outside the room


Gresley Society: we acted illegally over duck

sp3The Gresley Society has admitted it broke the law in defending its controversial decision to alter the statue.

As readers know, the 7’4 bronze statue, due to be unveiled at King’s Cross station in April, was to feature a mallard duck at Sir Nigel’s feet, symbolising his world speed record breaking locomotive Mallard, and as a nod to his love of waterfowl. But the trustees of the Gresley Society, who commissioned the work, gave in to the demands of two of Gresley’s grandsons, who said the duck was demeaning and must be omitted.

steam railway agm reportThe decision to axe the mallard caused an outcry and led to resignations from the Society, a 3,000-strong online petition and objections from leading figures in the heritage railway world, including the Gresley Society’s own patron Sir William McAlpine.

It was anticipated that differences would be resolved at the Society’s recent AGM, but trustees failed to comply with legal requirements on proxy voting, effectively denying most members a say. Vice Chairman Philip Benham, in an interview with Steam Railway magazine, admitted the trustees had broken the law, saying the matter “will be remedied in future”.

Ron Vale, a Gresley Society member for over 30 years, said:

“I had been authorised by 26 fellow members to vote on their behalf at the meeting, but was told on the day that the votes wouldn’t count.

This is not the way a respectable organisation should behave. I am appalled and embarrassed at the way the Gresley Society has handled this whole affair.”

None so blind as they that won’t see

The Gresley Society trustees, worried perhaps that the AGM earlier this month would be packed out with placard-waving ‘unbalanced duck fanatics’ decided at some point that the meeting would be for members only. They didn’t actually mention this fact (which is a change from previous years) in the notices for the meeting, in the Gresley Observer (the Society’s magazine), or on the GS website.  One member had travelled from Gloucestershire with his wife to attend the meeting with her: she was singled out at the start of the meeting and asked to leave the room.

One new, partially-sighted member, wanting to bring his friend with him from Yorkshire, wrote to Membership Secretary Chris Nettleton prior to the meeting, thus:

I note that according to the website, meetings are ‘open’. Presumably if I’m not able to travel to the AGM with another or other members, would it be possible to travel with a friend who, because of my eyesight problem, helps me find my way whenever he can? He’s obviously not a member but is an engineer who knows about Sir Nigel Gresley and his achievements. I’ve told him about the AGM and he’s quite keen to attend if possible. I’m sure he could be persuaded to join the society.

Mr Nettleton replied as follows:

It may seem harsh, but as the forthcoming AGM may only be attended by members, Council regret your friend would not be permitted to enter the room. I am confident a fellow member (or myself) would assist you from the entrance to your seat. Your friend is welcome to attend the presentation by Paul Chancellor, after the AGM business has been completed.

Not sure ‘harsh’ is the right word here!donald duck eyes closed

The Gresley Society Guide to Running a Charity: public relations

In its ‘management’ of the statue debacle, the Gresley Society Council (its committee of trustees) has given a master class in how not to do things. The once highly respected charity is a ‘laughing stock’, according to Steam Railway’s David Wilcock, whose trustees have ‘lost the plot‘.

It would be a great pity if all we have learnt over the past few months were to be forgotten. So as a service to authoritarian regimes, juntas, secret societies and old boys’ networks the world over, we bring you the Gresley Society Guide to Running a Charity (as told to @gresleyduck)

Here’s the first extract:

4.2 Public relations.
If you have plenty of money in the bank, like we do, there is absolutely no need to bother with public relations. It’s just not important what anybody thinks of the charity, and you should take every opportunity to make this point.

For example, in 2015 our chairman successfully insulted thousands of people, in a sustained campaign against anyone who disagreed with our unpopular decision to remove the mallard from Sir Nigel Gresley’s statue. A few of our members resigned as a result, but the sort of person who would resign on a point of principle really isn’t suited to membership anyway and it’s best to be rid of them.

We have found it is good to repeat a catchy phrase when describing those who disagree with you – in our case “unbalanced duck fanatics” worked well to draw attention and to highlight the strength of our argument.

old boys network

Mallard decision makes no sense

The (aptly named) BBC1 programme Pointless this week had a round on ‘famous Nigels’. Sir Nigel Gresley was easily the most obscure Nigel – only 5 out of 100 people said they had heard of him.

How many more people have heard of Mallard? When BBC Newcastle did a feature on the statue story recently they carried out a straw poll to find out how much ‘people in the North East’ know about Gresley (including customers of the city’s Flying Scotsman pub).
Nobody had heard of Gresley, but about half had heard of Mallard.

So, against all the evidence, the Gresley Society trustees insist that Sir Nigel is so famous that people will see the statue and instantly know – and care – who it depicts. They won’t. That’s why Gresley needs the symbolic mallard at his feet.

What on earth is preventing the trustees from seeing sense? They have taken this peculiar stance – which is completely at odds with public opinion and the views of respected figures in the railway preservation movement. Why?

1-1928-gresley-on-Flying-Scotsmans-footplate-phil-marsh-collectionGresley is pictured here (second from right) on the footplate of Flying Scotsman. Doubtless you, GresleyDuck reader, recognise him – but would the average King’s Cross commuter?

Mallard more famous than Gresley

According to the Government’s guidance for charities, the aim of the Annual General Meeting is to provide the trustees the opportunity to explain their management of the charity to the members. It also “provides the members of the charity with an opportunity to ask questions before voting on business items on the agenda”.

Unfortunately the Gresley Society trustees weren’t in the mood for answering our questions at their recent AGM, which was a shame, because there were a number of things we were keen to ask. 105 things actually.

Here’s one:mallard newcastle 1
Q86. A straw poll for BBC Radio Newcastle ascertained that nobody knew who Sir Nigel Gresley was. By contrast 50% knew what Mallard was. What does this tell you about the value of a mallard on the statue?