Nevil Shute Norway Foundation

Newsletter dated July 2010


From Heather Mayfield

I generally don't weigh in on subjects under discussion in the newsletter, but I feel I cannot remain silent on the subject of whether or not my Dad harboured anti-Semitic views. To the best of my recollection, I never heard him say anything against Jews, Blacks or people of any other race or colour. He considered them all to be individuals, and treated them as such. I think that Babette hit the nail on the head when she said that my Dad's writings reflected the mores of society at the time.

From Laura Schneider


The dates are set for the 7th Biennial Nevil Shute Norway Conference! "Nevil Shute's Seattle" will be held in Seattle, Washington and will run from Sunday, September 18 through Friday, September 23, 2011. More details will be posted here next month.

From Andy Burgess

The Barley Mow

In response to the piece in the newsletter I can advise the following: The Barley Mow is a very common name for a pub in England and there are many around and about. Jackie Turner lived in Watford and there was a famous Barley Mow pub near St Albans (which is near Watford), which was in the vanguard of the return of "real ale" in the 1970's and 80's. It was regarded locally as a "beer exhibition" as it had a wide selection of beers and it was a "free house", that is it was not tied to any particular brewery. I have always assumed that this was the pub referred to in Chequer Board. Certainly in my time living in NW London and Watford the Barley Mow was very well known and I expect Shute will have known it when he lived in Edgware, near the de Havilland works. When the airfield at Stag Lane was closed the main works of de Havilland moved to Hatfield, even nearer the Barley Mow and I am sure Shute would have visited the area as de Havilland, of course, took over Airspeed after he left. Sadly I believe the pub has now closed and is a private house, a great shame as it was a very well known pub with a long history. Many pubs have gone this way in England especially Free Houses who found it difficult to compete with the big brewers.

From Eunice Shanahan

Shute as a fore-teller ?

I am reading Arthur C. Clarke's book "Profiles of the future" (first published in 1962) and was surprised to find this quote on page 51, in the chapter concerting the future of transport.


I would like to give one more example because it is easy to forget how often the views of technical and scientific authorities about future progress fall hopelessly short of the truth. Yet the 'experts' continue to make the same mistakes, and many of them will go through their predictable routines again when these words appear in print.

Back in 1929 a leading aeronautical engineer, now well known to you in quite a different connexion wrote a paper on the future of aviation which opened with the words: "The forecast is freely made that within a few years passenger-carrying aeroplanes will be travellng at over 300 mph, the speed record today." This he stated pontifically, was gross journalistic exaggeration as "the commercial aeroplane will have a definite range of development ahead of it beyond which no further advance can be anticpated."

Here are the advances this far-sighted prophet anticipated when the aeroplane had reached the limit of its development, probably by the year 1980:

Speed : 110-130mph
Range : 600 miles
Payload : 4 tons
Total weight : 20 tons.

Well, every one of these figures had been multiplied by more than 5 by the time their proponent died in 1960, mourned by thousands of readers in many countries. For in 1929, he was N.S. Norway, chief calculator on the R100 airships design, but in 1960 he was famous as Nevil Shute. One can only hope, as he himself must have done, that "On the Beach" turns out to be as wide of the mark as this earlier and lesser-known prediction.


From Andy Burgess

Shrewsbury 2010 June 25th to June 27th

The UK mini-gatherings in between the formal conferences are becoming a real must for Shute enthusiasts and this year 17 souls arrived at the Lord Hill Hotel in Shrewsbury on Friday evening and 5 more joined on the Saturday morning. Shute attended Shrewsbury school between 1913 and 1916 and the attraction of visiting this scene of a less than well documented part of his life was clearly irresistible. As the aficionados assembled experiences since York last year were swapped, anecdotes related and the tale of an 8 pound lobster named Mike who has been saved from culinary execution by Laura held everyone spellbound. We await with eager anticipation the news that he has arrived in his new home at the "Lobster Lounge". This was a case of an extraordinary lobster doing ordinary things, quite a twist on the usual Shute theme. A fine dinner was consumed in the hotel over which the conversation was continued at a discrete level lest we interfered with the 18th Birthday party next door. Only later did we realise that a 40th party was being held in another part of the hotel. Realising that we were quite inadequate to compete with this we happily retired to bed.

Saturday morning dawned bright with the promise of an interesting day. In a meeting room in the hotel John Anderson outlined the plan for the weekend and then updated us on the latest research. From Shrewsbury school he had obtained an article from the school newsletter on the Easter uprising in Ireland, written by a Shrewsbury boy on the scene. (Click here to see a transcription of the article.) It seems highly likely that this is the first example of the young Nevil Shute Norway "publishing" his work. Certainly the style and tone was reminiscent of his later efforts. Another recent discovery was that Shute had financed the publication of a book by his old housemaster at Shrewsbury, Basil Oldham. By an amazing coincidence Jim MacDougald in the USA had acquired the copy of this book that had been sent to Shute and inscribed to him by its author. John had asked if he could send a picture, but Jim generously sent the book itself with instructions to give it to the school.

Laura then gave an update on the plans for next year's conference in Seattle with illustrations from Google earth and pictures of relevant places and an 8 pound lobster called Mike. The latter has nothing to do with Seattle of course. Seattle hotels are apparently fighting over getting our business and Laura is holding a competition based on the quality of scones they can produce. The Seattle area boasts many attractions, both Shute related and otherwise and Laura advises that, if at all possible, we should extend our stay to take in all that it offers. A web site with details of the event will be published (if that is what you do with a web site) shortly. Apart from the Shute connections associated with books such as Trustee, On the Beach and Requiem for a Wren the area is also heavily connected with the series "Twin Peaks". With a foretaste of the organisational excellence to come Laura produced emergency chocolates to go with our "damn fine" cups of coffee, although the cherry pie was absent.

After lunch we travelled by coach to Shrewsbury school which is situated in a lovely location perched on a rise above the River Severn. Passing a statue to Darwin (an old Salopian) we met up with Dr Mike Morrogh who is Head of History, part time archivist and also a Shute enthusiast. After claiming that references to Shute in the school archives were fairly limited he went on to give us a wonderful talk on the style of life that Shute would have experienced there. He had also assembled a collection of items including photographs and inscribed copies of Shute novels. He discussed at some length the character of Basil Oldham and how Shute had provided funding, not only for the publication of his book, but for a local account to pay for holidays and whisky. From the detail given Basil Oldham is clearly the model for Mr Scarlett in Most Secret. Unfortunately John had unwittingly pre-empted Dr Morrogh's "scoop" of the article on the Easter Rising, however this was mitigated somewhat by the presentation to him of the inscribed book from Jim MacDougald. Dr Morrogh is quite certain that the article was written by Shute and it is planned to put this on the web site for all to read.

Dr Morrogh then gave us a brief tour of the points of interest at the school including the boat house from which Shute would have conducted his rowing. He would have taken part in "bumping" races, which in his day would have involved precisely what the name suggests. However health and safety apparently now prevents actual contact and the act of bumping has to be indicated by a master calling through a megaphone while cycling next to the river ! A visit to Oldham's House where Shute stayed during his time at Shrewsbury revealed a portrait of Shute on a wall. The picture is familiar to many as Dan Telfair has the same in his home and much debate was had on which is the original. We returned to the school in the evening for our formal meal in the Peterson room. After Pimms on the terrace we indulged in good food and fine wine amongst excellent company, I am sure Shute would have approved.

For Sunday we travelled to the nearby RAF Museum at Cosford. This includes the National Cold War Exhibition that was opened about three years ago along with a wide variety of aeroplanes. In particular it houses a collection of experimental planes showing the extent of the British aerospace efforts in the post war years. The national Cold War Exhibition has yet more planes along with tanks and other artefacts from that period. Displays cover many facets of life including art and literature and included is a copy of On the Beach as an example of a story of the time. Around lunchtime the members dispersed and made their way home.

It only remains to offer sincere thanks yet again to John Anderson for a superb weekend that can only be described as apparently Basil Oldham and Charles Simon would have said - Topping !

From Laura Schneider

BRAVO to John Anderson for organizing another brilliant Nevil Shute weekend. The weather was divine and the company was even better ! From our full-of-surprises visit to the Shrewsbury School to the RAF Cosford Museum, you planned the perfect gathering. I can still taste the Pimm's from our lovely dinner at the Shrewsbury School. I doubt Nevil or his classmates ever ate so well. Thank you for another memorable reunion !

From The Editor

As Andy and Laura have already written, we had a great weekend in Shrewsbury. The weather, the company, the surroundings and the food were all great. What a wonderful tradition to have these inbetweenies in the UK.

From Holland, where it is very warm (33°C, 91°F), see you all next month.


The list of enthusiastsis now on the website under "Local Shutists"