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:
David 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.
Council 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’?
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.