Tonight, the PBS TV channel here in the USA is going to show the second episode in the second series of Julian Fellowes’s Edwardian drama, Downton Abbey. According to an article in the British newspaper the Daily Telegraph 4.2 million people turned on the television last Sunday to watch the previous episode created by the British ITV. I have to confess that I was one of these viewers (sitting next to Mrs. B.), and I enjoyed myself immensely to once again see the characters from last year’s first series. (On this side of the pond, we are some months behind, as the last episode in the second season was shown in Britain at Christmas that just passed.)
Yes, I am aware that I am watching a ‘soap opera’, but it is well-played, although – and here Baron Fellowes of West Stafford has to excuse me – I think that the script has its weak spots. But never mind, what is mostly shown here in the USA is so dreadfully bad, both when it comes to the script and acting, that Baron Fellowes’s ‘opera’ is a pure delight to watch. Thank god for public TV in America! This second series of the show is time-wise covering the First World War, and now I am finally getting to why I am actually mentioning Downton Abbey on HTBS.
The other day, the latest item I won on eBay.com arrived in my mail box: a Christmas card from 1914. In this case, it is the sender that is the interesting part, Vesta Rowing Club at Putney. The members of the club send their fellow club members ‘who are serving their King and Country’ … their Heartiest Good Wishes this Christmastide.’
I am not certain how many of Vesta RC’s members died during the Great War, but I surely agree with H.B. Wells in his Vesta Rowing Club: A Centenary History (1969), when he writes, ‘too many of our young oarsmen did not return’.
It seems a fire in 1936 destroyed parts of the club’s archives. However, members still, when Wells’s book was published, remembered the ‘gratitude’ shown towards the club in 1920 by the staff and patients of St Dunstan’s, whose mission was and still is ‘to help blind ex-Service men and women to lead independent and fulfilling lives.’ St Dunstan’s was founded by Arthur Pearson, owner and founder of the Daily Express who himself went blind in 1913. During the War, Vesta RC’s R.J. Calcutt (club president 1905-1919) had taken the initiative to offer ‘war-blinded men’ at St Dunstan’s, rowing at Vesta. The ex-Service men were taught rowing by the club’s members. The hospitalised man is then another tie-in to Downton Abbey’s second series.
Please, see also “Vesta RC At War 1914-1918”, on Monday, 23 January, 2012.