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SP-Statue-wall-front-viewWelcome to our campaign to get the mallard reinstated to Sir Nigel Gresley’s statue at King’s Cross.

The sculptor’s original design (pictured here, as it would look in situ) included the mallard at Sir Nigel’s feet, but the statue’s commissioners, the Gresley Society, decided to remove the duck because Sir Nigel’s two grandsons don’t like it. For all the details, read this article in Steam Railway by David Wilcock.

The statue is currently being made and is due to be unveiled in April 2016.  If, like thousands of us, you think the mallard made the statue special and engaging, then please sign the petition.

MallardThe painting of a mallard and ‘Birds in flight’ (our header image) appears with the kind permission of Jonathan Clay GRA.

73 thoughts on “Welcome

  1. It seems that our efforts here in focussed on persuading the Gresley Society Councol to go back to the original idea of a sculpture of a mallard alongside the sculpture of Sir Nigel in the atrium of King’s Cross Station.

    Whilst we hope that we will yet be successful here we have to consider tha we will not and consider alternatives. Time is running out since we have already seen the figure completed ready to be used to make the figure of Sir Nigel.

    A possible aternative if our aim is to reinstate the Mallard is tofind out from Ms Reeves how much it would cost for her to make the duck separately and raise funds for that?

    After all, i imagine, the application to Camden Council, Railtrack etc simply showed the finished article with the mallard in place it may not have specifed who would provide it.

    It may have mentioned the Gresley Society and just like the council members many of those contributing to this discussion are society members.

    What do others think?

  2. Generations of folks yet unborn will be shown, and have explained, the statue with the quaint duck, just the same as they had it when much younger. If it has a duck.
    What’s up London, some of you lost your unique whimsicality?

  3. Growing up in the Sixties (on the LMS region) I was intrigued by the names of locomotives. I learnt a lot of my geography and history looking at the names of the Jubilee class. However, I was always puzzled about why such a strealined super fast LNER express loco – Mallard – was named after a squat little duck. It seemed so innapropriate compared with possible alternatives like “Lightning”, “Peregrine” or “Shooting Star”. But now I know. Thanks.
    As far as the statue is concerned, it’s certainly a relief that the world speed record wasn’t set by a loco with a name open to all sorts of interpretation …D30 class number 62440 “Wandering Willie” ?

  4. In support of keeping the mallard with Sir Nigel’s statue.

    “In 1929 his wife was diagnosed with cancer and later died. She was buried in Netherseal, her husband’s boyhood home. The following year Gresley moved to Salisbury Hall near St Albans. An Elizabethan residence surrounded by a moat, it led to one of his great passions: keeping and breeding different species of wild duck, including his favourite… the mallard.”

    From: http://www.derbyshirelife.co.uk/people/the_derbyshire_roots_of_sir_nigel_gresley_1_3447191

    – Thanks to Dave (my work colleague) for finding this.

    • Thanks for this Kendal. The Gresley Society would like to play down Sir Nigel’s interest in mallards – the feathered variety – but it’s clear that he really was fond of them.

  5. The Gresley Society is out of touch with reality. It is essential to engage with the younger generations if the statue is to have any point. The grandchildren should have no say in the matter unless they are picking up a major portion of the cost. On this topic, the Society ran a fund raising campaign based on the presence of mallard. If the mallard is to be removed, it behoves the Society to refund the donations which were raised under false pretences.

    • I think the Duck should go it distracts from his achievments as a great engineer, Its a pity that the statue is not on a plynth then the edge could have a relief of steam engines and details of their internals which I think would look very good and challenge people to ponder on the engineering. (I hope he is holding an engineering drawing with details that can be read). I think the duck could then stay. But as it stands the duck is a distraction. Is it any wonder that engineers do not have the full status they deserve in society.

      • Thanks for your comment Andy. He is holding a copy of Locomotion magazine, whose cover story is about Mallard. The mallard seems already to be doing its job of drawing attention to the statue, and to Gresley. We think a statue of a chap nobody recognises will hardly be noticed, and certainly not remembered. Then it becomes rather pointless. The engineering drawings round a plinth is an interesting idea – that would look super.

  6. As you can see from my book Britain from the Rails: A Window Gazer’s Guide I almost hero-worship this man. But if the family aren’t happy, how about how about a Mallard loco about the same size as the duck rushing out of the wall next to him, front half showing? I am sure that would work for everyone, whereas the duck – which I like – seems to have ruffled a few feathers…

  7. Something tells me the society and grandchildren have not thought this one through AT ALL….

    Once a meme is out into the popular media, you don’t get to put it back: if they take the duck away, i look forward to a spate of people in future arriving with novelty ducks to insert into any pictures they take of themselves and the grand Gresley…

    …the net result, i suspect, will annoy them far more than the staid duck the sculptor is currently proposing

    • I think that’s right Jane. If the duck is not included people will take, and possibly leave a duck, after having a picture taken with their duck!!

  8. Have Sir Nigel (and the duck of course) fabricated in stainless steel and place him on the concourse at Doncaster Station instead. He’s well-known there as there’s a Gresley House and the town was famous for it’s locomotive works.

  9. Frankly if this statue is to be in a public place and the public would rather see the mallard as part of the statue then that is what should prevail. Without the mallard it really means nothing to the public so should be placed out of the public eye – possibly in one of the grandsons back gardens.

  10. If all those who have made a donation towards the statue of Sir Nigel Gresley with his duck were to now withdraw their donations and put the money instead towards an alternative statue of SNG with the mallard duck, would this send a clear message to the Gresley Society?
    The alternative statue of SNG and his mallard, if it were to go ahead, could appropriately be placed at Edinburgh Waverley station. Edinburgh, being no stranger to monuments incorporating animals – example the “Greyfriars Bobby” – I am sure would welcome SNG and mallard. It would also honour one its sons who was born there.

    Bob Eden
    (Melbourne, Australia)

  11. The question the Gresley Society needs to ask themselves is a very simple one: who is this statue for? Is it:

    A) for the society and the family? A memorial to a great man they love and admire, which they will cherish and appreciate during their lifetime, but which will fade into obscurity when they’re gone?

    Or is it:

    B) a lasting reminder of the legacy of a great man, that will attract and inspire future generations long after the current family and society members are dead and gone?

    Neither answer is “wrong”. But please, if the answer is A), then I simply ask that they openly admit and accept the limits and consequences of that choice.

    The children who would one day carry your torch, will not do so, if you don’t put back that duck.

    • Thanks for this very fair-minded comment Chris. If the answer is A, as it appears to be, then the Gresley Society council also needs to explain why it asked the public for donations to the project. However, I don’t think the council would accept your analysis of the situation. They have said recently that the statue, without the mallard, is ‘sufficiently eye-catching’ to be a ‘source of inspiration for future generations.’

      • Unfortunately England is full of “sufficiently eye-catching” statues which nobody pays the slightest bit of attention to, and which do not inspire future generations in the slightest because nothing draws people to look at them and question who they are or why they are famous. Thus the reason for the Mallard.

  12. The inclusion of a Mallard at Gresley’s feet is a brilliant and inspired idea which serves three purposes. Firstly, it alludes to his love of ducks. Secondly, it links to one of his two most famous locomotives. And thirdly, it attracts attention to the statue. The Gresley Society may not think much of children in their attitude to the statue, but children do not travel alone to Kings Cross. Their interest will draw their parents to look, and many will then scan the plaque and read the information to their children, perhaps sparking an interest which will grow through life. There may well be many adults who would be curious about the presence of the duck too and go take a look where they wouldn’t have otherwise. Without the duck it will become yet another anonymous statue which is universally ignored. From what I’ve read of Sir Nigel, I’m sure he would be tickled pink that one of his beloved ducks was to be at his feet for as long as his statue stands, disgusted at the behaviour of his grandsons (that “stupid duck” comment just goes to show how little they know of their grandfather), and gravely disappointed in the society supposedly dedicated to his name and works. A number of years ago I considered joining the Gresley Society, but I am glad I didn’t now, as it seems to be in the hands of craven, small minded, and to be perfectly blunt, stupid men.

  13. As I wrote to Andrew Dow when the Mallard proposal first arose: “I’ve been aware of this worthy project for some time, and fully support it.
    Sadly, we have in our midst creatures (I don’t dignify them by the title of ‘people’) who will see the thin legs of the mallard duck as easy prey to a hacksaw.
    A suggestion of an insulated 25kV cable threaded though the bird’s legs would, I fear, receive wide support( other then from the Safely ‘elves’) so forget that.
    Some sort of proximity alarm has been suggested but would soon have to be disabled after children (of all ages…) had attempted to stroke the duck. (Cuneo’s mouse at Waterloo, and Paddington’s nose at … Paddington … both bear (sorry!) witness to the public’s need to touch ‘something’ for luck.)
    Sat on a perch firmly attached to the backing brickwork, the bird would recognise Sir Nigel’s affection for his ducks with far less risk of theft.
    Paul King (Stratford 1948 -52: rode ‘Mallard’ Kings Cross – York in my last month of a Premium Apprenticeship)

    • Thanks for your comments Paul. The risk of theft/damage to the mallard was considered carefully, as I understand it, with plans to reinforce the duck’s legs with steel rods set into the ground. I think Andrew Dow liked the idea of children sitting on it!

  14. Stop playing ducks and drakes with the project and put the symbolic Mallard next to the great man. It will provoke questions of why it’s there for generations to come and lead to a gathering of knowledge of the great days of steam traction

  15. If this statue is being “put up” by The Gresley Society then it should be up to them what they ” put up”.
    It sounds as though the contributors thought it was going to include a duck, so include the duck. It’s not by any stretch of the imagination an insult to Sir Nigel’s descendants so include the duck.
    Sir Nigel obviously loved ducks,Tim Godfrey doesn’t,he thinks they are stupid but what has it got to do with him. That’s his personal opinion and he is entitled to it. I think he is wrong and that’s my opinion. Keep the duck , it’s important.

  16. Without the duck, – -just another statue of another elderly person.
    The overwhelming majority of people won’t recognise Sir Nigel , but with the duck and its touch of humour the passer by might take the trouble to stop or be induced to wonder what is this work of art about.
    I don’t think it matters whether it is a child or an old age pensioner who may be educated by this statue, the duck will mark it out as special . Does anyone know of another with one?
    Apparently Sir Nigel’s descendants did not concern themselves with the great mans resting place so keep the duck!!

  17. I can only conclude that the members of the Council of the Gresley Society are completely ‘quackers’ in voting to remove the duck! Have they no sense of history? An anonymous statue of a male that most of the country has never heard of would be brought to life by the inclusion of the mallard: a fitting tribute to a great loco designer, whose A4 Pacific ‘Mallard’ is far better known than Sir Nigel: the duck makes the link explicit for present and future generations.

  18. “Who pays the piper, calls the tune” Let the ones who are paying decide the outcome and not be dictated to by two bullies. This statue is for all of us to enjoy, a public tribute not a family memorial.

  19. Gresley with a fat, waddling duck at his feet, at the entrance to Kings Cross station where Sir Nigel’s wonderful Pacifics headed north day by day. I lived from the beginning of the war until the late fifties in a house that backed on to Palmers Green goods yard. My loco spotting days were either near Greenwood tunnel signal box or Wood Green. Late at night in bed, I could hear the wail of the chime whistles as an A4 streaked through Wood Green station a couple of miles away. During the summer, each year, around 5 or 6pm, an engine arrived to take a parcels train to Scotland or somewhere northwards. Happy days when this was an A4.
    A tribute to this country’s finest railway engineer is a must, and the duck at his feet, wow, it makes you smile and think, “I’d like to have met this man.”

  20. I am absolutely staggered and bitterly disappointed that the Godfrey family seem to want Mallard removed from the proposed statue of Sir Nigel Gresley. Mallard represented the pinnacle of his career. It was the most magnificent locomotive he ever created and when it recorded the world speed record it made him world famous. It also out ran the Nazi German rival and gave Hitler his first humiliation and taste of defeat. It was always Gresley’s intention to develop the fastest ever loco utilising the best ideas and modifications possible and by hard graft and innovative methods he finally achieved his goal. Gresley and Mallard were like a marriage made in heaven. No Mallard – No Gresley. He would have just been known as one of many outstanding railway engineers of his time. He hand picked the crew and used every possible technical modification including a unique double chimney and the latest specifications to show the world the best of British engineering. Without a tribute to Mallard, it will completely devalue this statue and make it worthless and futile. Like Dick Whittington, I would ask the grandsons of Gresley to turn again and do what Sir Nigel would have really wanted… endorse a fitting tribute and commemoration to two notable public heros and prevent a national disgrace! In case the Godfrey’s need reminding, I wrote the book about Mallard – How the Blue Streak broke the world speed record – and it has never been out of the top 100 of its genre and was a huge hit at the 75th anniversary of the record at the NRM in York… will gladly send them a copy so they can understand why he became so popular and his locomotives so loved and admired.
    Don Hale: Mallard: How the ‘Blue Streak’ Broke the World Steam Speed Record by Don Ha… http://www.amazon.co.uk/…/1…/ref=cm_sw_r_tw_dp_m0tOvb10PWVA7 via @AmazonUK

    Mallard: How the ‘Blue Streak’ Broke the World Steam Speed Record
    ‘It ought to be a film, of course, pitched somewhere between The Right Stuff and Chariots of Fire. Meanwhile, Don Hale’s well-ordered, compelling book will do…

    • I’m confident that such an innovative mind as Sir Nigel’s would have looked for ‘out of the box’ ideas to further his engineering goals – the duck is a fantastic way of suggesting that and bringing the great man into the public’s minds. It’s like Brunel with out the hat (and chain links in the background) It’d be more iconic rather than just another statue. Please shake somebody rather hard and put the duck back!

  21. I wonder if the grandchildren ever visit his grave they didn’t obviously before others cleaned it up.

    The duck should stay, it was there to make people curious as to why and find out via the system there to tell them.
    Yes Flying Scotsman broke a few records but the WORLD STEAM SPEED RECORD stands after 79 years and is unlikely to be ever broken

  22. I support Gresley’s grandsons and the Gresley Society and do NOT want the duck reinstated. The great man’s memory would be demeaned by its presence in what would be a schoolboy disneyesque in-joke. It would be just unnecessary.

    • Thanks for your comment Roger. The mallard is hardly a ‘schoolboy disneyesque in-joke’. It’s there to draw attention to the statue from the millions of commuters who will pass it, most of whom won’t have a clue about Sir Nigel Gresley and his work. How would you do it?

  23. As others have said the duck makes the statue more memorable and provokes inquiry. Cuneo had his mouse, so give Sir Nigel his duck.!

  24. Are Sir Nigel’s grandsons contributing towards the cost of the statue in any significant way? If not then i would suggest that they should not have any significant say in a tribute to the great man, when others are making a significant financial contribution.

    To say that the the society have no interest in children taking an interest, is long term suicide for the society, after all children are the future officers and members of the society

    • Paul, we know that another part of the family made substantial contributions (before the mallard was removed) but nothing has been said publicly about whether the grandsons have contributed anything.

  25. The duck should stay, capturing the attention and interest of passers by and adding a touch of charming oddity.
    I realise that matters within a family are not for me to meddle with, but perhaps Sir Nigel’s grandchildren could ask themselves whether he would have approved himself? Nothing I’ve read about him suggests stick-in-the-mud

  26. Nobody passing the statue of a man will look twice, but a man accompanied by a duck will certainly grab his or hers attention.
    Outside of the heritage railway fraternity no one knows who
    Nigel Gresley was. The addition of the duck (mallard) would
    change all that.

  27. Very sad that people thought they were supporting the statue with a mallard. Sir Nigel Gresley would turn in his grave. Makes you wonder wether his grandsons new him at all. KEEP THE MALLARD. The Gresley Society should consult everyone who has donated. Shame on them if they leave off the Mallard.

  28. I have signed and support the petition, and am extremely saddened to read the recent response from David McIntosh – particularly the information that the Gresley Society, and Mr McIntosh its chairman, do not consider children to be important in this endeavour…..Mr McIntosh is also a Trustee of the Sir Nigel Gresley Locomotive Trust (owners and operators of the A4 Locomotive named after its famous designer), and in his role as a SNGLT Trustee, Mr McIntosh has specific responsibilities as the trust’s ‘Education Officer’………who, I wonder would he consider an important group to ‘educate’!?

      • Just to be clear, for anyone else reading this, the Sir Nigel Gresley Locomtive Trust (SNGLT) has nothing to do with the statue. It’s just that SNGLT and the Gresley Society have a trustee (David McIntosh) in common.

        • I thought that the whole point of a “trustee” was that they held positions of trust………I leave my comment at that regarding McIntosh’s level of trust given the comments he has been making.

  29. If every duck supporter donated a small sum to help pay for Sir Nigel’s statue then perhaps the duck could pay its own way! I would be happy to donate my pocket money savings because it would make me feel proud that I had contributed.

  30. Having a Mallard Duck at the feet of Sir Nigel will prompt the youngsters to ask What and Why is it there.

  31. The duck is a wonderful addition and something that will allow the statute to stand out from the crowd, it would be like a magnet for all young children which, for many, would be the starting point to finding out about Sir Nigel and his legacy. Unfortunately, the family are missing the point that the duck adds so much to a wonderful salute to the man himself.

    Fantastic that you have set up this campaign, here’s hoping the family will realise what a trick they are missing.

  32. Yes, with all due respect to the Great Man’s descendants, the duck must stay! Sir Nigel was, or has become, a public figure with an important place in the cultural and engineering history of the nation, and it is fitting that he should be commemorated with a staute. I’d have it premiered on the ‘fourth plinth’ in Trafalgar Square for six months or however long you’re allowed, before going to King’s Cross. That would really boost public awareness. And why not something different and quirky? Gresley himself was an innovator, after all . . . And by the way, where is he buried? In Watton?

  33. The locomotive Mallard was one of a class of 35 built for the premier east coast services of the London and North Eastern Railway. As such when the directors of the company wished to honour Sir Nigel they chose to name one of the 35 after him. By my reckoning 25 of the 35 had at one time bird names, the majority always carried them. The connection could hardly be stronger and the symbolism must be maintained.

  34. I have contacted the Gresley Society to say that I would be delighted to contribute to the cost of the statue, but only if the duck is there. I await their reply.
    I wonder if others might consider doing the same.

    • And I got this rather bland reply back:

      “The Council of The Gresley Society Trust, with the benefit of hindsight, accept that they were remiss in not insisting that their Sculpture sub-Group consulted with The Gresley family before going public on the more controversial details of the project. 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. We are also aware that artistic opinion is by no means unanimous that a modern statue needs something ‘extra’ in order to attract attention. Equally we have never regarded small children as a target market for our work. A special Council meeting was held at which it became clear that we faced a clear choice between either, respecting the clearly expressed reservations of colleagues, friends and long-term supporters whose opinions we respect, and amend the design or, risk a fundamental breech in our relationship with these key individuals. The outcome of our discussion was a unanimous decision, with two abstentions, to delete the mallard. Three Council members felt unable to accept this decision and decided to resign. Much comment has been made about the nature of the relationship between Sir Nigel and wildfowl – to describe him as an “ornithologist” is a gross exaggeration as is the claim that he “bred Mallards”, which are of course wild animals! He was as much likely to view birds over the barrel of a gun, as a typical country gent of the 1930’s. Thus far fundraising for the Statue has generated a total of 130 contributions, 60 % from members, totalling just over £10k, currently leaving 89% of the funding to be provided by the Gresley Society Trust itself, although the recent publicity has generated several new contributions, one in excess of £1,000 . The Contract has now been signed and we look forward to the unveiling in 2016.
      David McIntosh, Chairman, The Gresley Society Trust.”

      • Thanks for letting us know Pete, this seems to be a standard reply to enquirers. Strange that they persist in saying “we have never regarded small children as a target market for our work” yet the strapline on their website is “We sustain the legacy”.

  35. Hi Libby,
    My 5yr old grandson who sat in 4468’s driving seat at the Great Goodbye, NRM Shildon Feb 2014 is well aware of Sir Nigel’s other passion…. Breeding Mallards!!!
    He also understands why “Mallard” (A4), was selected for the record run!

  36. Like Sir Nigel, I too feed mallards from my back door and am very fond of them. The loco named for them still holds the world record for steam locomotives – strange to think that the family don’t really understand the connection.

  37. Um, we keep hearing the words senior members, who are not on the council stating there opinion, I ‘ve been a member for nearly ten years and a gentleman who I know has been a member of the Gresley society for over 20 years, neither of us were ask for our opinion, I’m not so worried about myself, but a member of 20 years +, I feel there has been to much ‘secret Squirrel’ involvement, and not enough listening to the members of the Gresley society membership!

    • Thanks for your interesting and somewhat disturbing comment Paul. The announcement on the Gresley Society’s website (gresley.org) about removing the mallard from the statue specifically says members were consulted before making the decision.

      If you are saying members were not in fact consulted, it does make one wonder how much of what the Gresley Society Council has said about this matter is true, and, as you say, exactly who was behind the decision to remove the mallard.

      Gresley Society Chairman David McIntosh has said the grandsons objected to the mallard, and that the Council also received adverse comments from the President (John Cameron), all ten Vice-Presidents (not sure who they are, will investigate) and “senior officers at other related organisations” (no idea who they might be).

      Mr McIntosh has said that the Council decision to remove the mallard was “unanimous apart from two abstentions” (presumably from Dennis Butler and Nigel Dant, who promptly resigned, whilst Vice Chairman Andrew Dow, who resigned at the same time, was absent due to illness).

      According to gresley.org the Council comprises David McIntosh, Tracey Parkinson, Mike Foreman, Chris Nettleton, Ian MacCabe, Graeme Bunker, Philip Benham, Robin Beynon. One imagines this lot originally approved the presence of the mallard on the statue.

      • Hi Libby,
        As member s we found out on the internet, about the change to the statue, members not on the the web would have found out in the quarterly society magazine

  38. I’m sure that SNG would be horrified at the attitude of his grandsons, who seem to have no respect whatsoever for their Grandfather’s memory. Yes, as they say Flying Scotsman was also one of his achievements, but that loco hasn’t held the world speed record for steam for nearly 80 years has it?

  39. Stop meddling; leave the statue as it is. Sir Nigel can’t loose his status, because a Mallard was put on the statue. Grow up. If my grandfather was honoured in such a way, I wouldn’t object.

    • Hello Roger, well the Gresley Society’s governing body (the ‘Council’) decided to remove the mallard after Gresley’s grandsons complained it would detract from the dignity of the statue. Three members of the Council (the ones who had been working on the project for the previous nine months or more) resigned at that point.

  40. Page 210 of Geoffrey Hughes book Sir Nigel Gresley – The Engineer and his family by Oakwood Press contains a nice photograph of the great man feeding his Mallard ducks in the moat at Salisbury Hall in around 1937.

  41. I have to agree with all the cases put forward and the reasoning as to why, it is appropriate that the duck remains on the statue.

  42. I ask myself “What would Sir Nigel have thought?” I can’t imagine that someone who so appreciated the presence of ducks in his life, would object to one seeking his company n memorial form.

    • The duck should stay! John Kefala Kerr’s recent opera, Steamsong (wwwsteamsong.uk), is about Gresley and Mallard. Commissioned by the National Railway Museum last year, it is full of bird-related imagery (the opera begins with Sir Nigel Gresley singing a great long list of bird names). The symbolic and technological influence of the natural world on engineers is acknowledged in the opera, but also more subtle distinctions between animate and inanimate things. It’s a failure of imagination and a concession to hubris to discredit the duck.

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