The East Anglian Daily Times on Saturday did not publish a piece on the spelling of Maria Martin’s name, but as a consolation prize they printed a full-page spread about my activities, complete with a picture of me attempting to control my boat in a strong breeze.
It is interesting that my association with the HiRISE project - I project-managed the development, manufacture and testing of the imaging CCDs used on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter - provided the headline. Some of the pictures still being sent back from Mars are spectacular. I reproduce one here from the Wikipedia site - "whirlwind trails on Martian sand dunes"
The HiRISE project on board the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter is a high-resolution colour camera attached to a telescope, that can image the Martian surface with a resolution roughly equivalent to the size of a football. It was launched in August 2005 and arrived at Mars in March 2006. As I recall, the camera had a design life of two and a half years. Nine years later, it is still sending back the most splendid pictures.
The new book...
Sales of Murder in the Red Barn are encouraging; barely six weeks after publication, 25% of the first print-run has been sold.
One unexpected consequence: The East Anglian Daily Times published a picture of my book-signing last week in Bury St Edmunds, and someone has written to the newspaper complaining that ‘Maria Martin’ was spelled incorrectly; it should have been Marten. In fact I went to a great deal of trouble, early on in the research for the book, to show that all parish records for the family, without exception, spelled the name Martin. The newspaper tells me that they plan to publish an editorial on all of this, this coming Saturday.
A middle aged married couple contemplating Tim Shaw’s astonishing Erebus, Man on Fire II, a large completely black sculpture in foam; the lady says: ‘think what a mess it would make on the floor…’
Two old ladies. One reads the catalogue seeking the provenance of a work; the other says to her: ‘Is it by anybody?’
I have been working on a project I started more than thirty years ago. Brunel has always fascinated me, and in Brunel’s Britain, by Derrick Beckett, I first came across the story that Brunel aligned the Box Tunnel on the Great Western Railway such that sun shines right through it on his birthday.
Years later, I now have the knowledge and the tools to do the calculations and see if it might be true. It isn’t; but there remain some fascinating questions. The sun does shine through the tunnel, but a few days earlier than Isambard’s birthday. Furthermore, if atmospheric refraction is ignored – this is the lensing effect of the atmosphere close to the horizon – the rising sun really does shine through the tunnel on the day in question.
I wanted to know when the story first came to light, as it were, and also what was the provenance of a Victorian lithograph reproduced by Beckett. It shows a train exciting the tunnel and has the legend:
It is a remarkable fact that annually on the morning of April 9th, the sun’s rays penetrate through the Great Box Tunnel of the Great Western Railway and on no other day in the year; The Daily Telegraph, April 12th 1859. Even more remarkable is the fact that April 9th is the birthday of Brunel.
Even more remarkable still, the Daily Telegraph of April 12th 1859 makes no mention of the Box Tunnel whatsoever… This last fact has troubled me for years, but the new newsroom at the British Library has the latest microfilm viewers installed, and using one of these I was able to establish this week that the story was run in the Daily Telegraph, not on 12th April, but the previous day.
Scrutiny of other newspapers of the period indicates that the legend was repeated many times between 1842, the year after the tunnel was finished, and 1859, the year Brunel died, but with the exception of the above mentioned lithograph, no mention was made that April 9th was Brunel’s birthday. Was it a conspiracy of silence to protect the reputation of the great man? I need to track down that lithograph and find out when it was published. Aggravatingly, Beckett does not record its provenance, and an enquiry to his publisher received no answer.
Murder in the Red Barn...
A date for your diaries... I will be signing copies of my new book Murder in the Red Barn at the Bury St Edmunds' Waterstones, 36 Butter Market, on Saturday 22 August from around 10:00 am.
Welcome to the Mirli Books blog written by Peter Maggs