Resources for Thinkers' Dinner XIII - Fame and Infamy



The thirteenth in our regular series of quarterly dinners was held on 22nd June, at a new venue for us, The Gallery at Adam Street Club, with a theme of Fame and Infamy. The theme was carried through into one of the gifts for our guests, which was a book called 100 Great Brits - A rhyming history from Bede to Beckham by James Muirden and inspired by the 2002 BBC poll to find the 100 Greatest Britons.
Tempus cogitatum
The other gift was a little bottle of the new fragrance exclusive to Thinkers - Tempus cogitatum, is a fine fragrance created exclusively for Thinkers' guests, past and present, by Pell Wall Perfumes.

This unisex cologne is designed to capture the spirit of TD: intelligence, clear thought and a little bit of showing off . . . Full details are on the Pell Wall Perfumes site, but only accessible using the link from here or by putting www.pellwall-perfumes.com/thinkers/ into your browser address bar.

We did an excellent Infamy quiz designed by Thom Rockcliffe and introduced with this memorable clip from Carry On Cleo.

One of the best of the items from the quiz was this list of people:
  • Edward Oxford
  • John Francis
  • John William Bean
  • William Hamilton
  • Robert Pate
  • Robert Mclean


It took us a while to work out that each of them had made an attempt at assassinating Queen Victoria.

In a similar way it was only when we were given the extra clue 'they relate to perhaps the most infamous acts in English history' that we realised that another list of names were all suspects in the Ripper murders

As always we took a look at this-day-in-history and found some items of particular interest:
  • In 1825 The British Parliament abolishes feudalism and the seigneurial system in British North America which prompted a long discussion about what exactly that system was and how it came to be introduced in the first place.
  • In 1893 The Royal Navy battleship HMS Camperdown accidentally rams the British Mediteranean Fleet flasgship HMS Victoria an event which is to lead to a great cause celebre at the time with several Courts Martial - the blame is largely laid at the door of the fleet commander Vice-Admiral Sir George Tryon who was one of the 358 who died in the disaster and whose intentions in giving the order that led to the collision have been the subject of debate ever since.
    HMS Victoriasinking 1893, also in the picture HMS Nile
    Click the above picture (from Wikimedia and out of copyright) for more on the sinking

  • Sanctuary Wood
    Sanctuary Wood shortly after the battles there
    This date in 1916 the soldier and officer Raymond_Asquith writes home to his wife from a battlefield near Ypres. He was the eldest son of the then Prime Minister Herbert Henry Asquith, 1st Earl of Oxford and Asquith and will die later that year at the Somme. At dinner I contrasted this with a similar letter home, written almost exactly a year later, by my grandfather Cyril George Bartlett a volunteer soldier who had left school at 14 to be an apprentice stationer. Despite their authors' vastly different social backgrounds both letters are poignant, extremely literate and evocative of the time as this extract from Cyril's letter shows: Sometimes I can scarcely realise that I used to know people moving about peacefully and with apparently human feelings in them. It is only letters from home that reminds us that there is another world outside this thunderous inferno in front of us...

As we had pre-advertised we touched on the two recent reports into the 7/7 bombings in London and the killing of, surely the 21st century's most infamous individual: Osama Bin Laden.

However we put them into context with a look at the Cato Street Conspiracy and earlier bombings of the London tube. Wikipedia would lead you to believe the first time the tube was bombed was in 1885 – in fact other sources agree it was two years earlier. Here is one of the extracts we used at dinner describing both the 1883 and 1885 attacks.