Roamer: Greenland’s icy mountains, Methodist scallops and uncle Trevor’s all stars

The rhythm of life, uncle Trevor Jenkins
The rhythm of life, uncle Trevor Jenkins

Though the weather has thankfully got milder my personal reminiscences on Wednesday’s page about coping with the cold over 50 years ago are rekindling some icy memories!

Though the weather has thankfully got milder my personal reminiscences on Wednesday’s page about coping with the cold over 50 years ago are rekindling some icy memories!

A reader has e-mailed a wonderful account of the life of Dungannon-born Polar explorer Edward W. Bingham, also mentioned here on Wednesday.

As well as spending much of his life exploring and mapping the world’s ice caps, Edward devised ingenious warm-weather outfits for British sailors on WWII’s blizzard-bound Russian conveys.

Irish showbands are back today after Phillip Darcy’s introduction last week to his colossal collection of musical memorabilia.

And there are more scallops!

First to Surgeon Captain Edward ‘Ted’ Bingham who died in 1993 aged 92. He was the last surviving holder of a Polar Medal with three clasps.

Originally called the Arctic Medal, the Polar Medal was awarded to the expedition team that braved the elements attempting to discover the fate of Sir John Franklin and his crew who were lost while looking for the Northwest Passage in 1847.

In 1904 the Polar Medal was inaugurated for members of Captain Scott’s first expedition to Antarctica, and to those on Ernest Shackleton’s expeditions in 1907-09 and 1914-17.

Edward Bingham’s three clasps were for a trio of important Arctic expeditions during which his expertise with huskies played an important role during the relentless sledge journeys.

The Dungannon explorer’s much acclaimed huskie-handling skills first became evident on mountaineering expeditions.

In Greenland in 1931 he joined in an ice-cap expedition to map the inland border of the east coast mountains and to attempt the ascent of Mont Forel, the country’s highest peak.

In 1932 he participated in another expedition that reached 28,000 feet on the north face of Mount Everest when it was recorded that “the journeys to and from the ice-cap were made by dog sledges and gave Bingham an introduction to huskies and dog driving, which he was to develop extensively in later years to the advantage of many polar travellers.”

Edward Bingham and his colleague-explorers experienced the most unimaginably horrendous sub-zero weather conditions on an almost daily basis.

So my mention on Wednesday of the lack of central heating during the winters of my youth faded into mirthful insignificance, a point highlighted in a reader’s e-mail about “Roamer’s references to his childhood in a big cold house. If you go back a couple of generations, it was even worse! Probably no running water, and an outside privy!”

Roamer considers himself justifiably reprimanded, though the reader’s e-mail continued with some warmer reminiscences.

“I love visiting the now ruined house outside Crossgar where my grandmother grew up. Apparently their Moss Well had the most delicious tasting water ever, and it never ran dry! And she had a choice of 12 brothers and sisters to play with. Almost up to Wesleyan standards!”

The last line in the e-mail referred to the recent spate of stories about the founders of Methodism - John and Charles Wesley. The brothers were just two of 19 children born to parents Rev. Samuel and Susanna, and while we’re back with the Wesley’s I feel bound to include a recent e-mail from Limavady’s expert on Methodism, Christopher Wilson.

Several weeks ago Donaghadee-reader Renee McAllister outlined the definitive history of scalloped potatoes.

The traditional Irish dish had previously been mentioned here during an on-going discussion about scallops in general, both potatoes and shell fish.

A reader told us that the sea-food variety became the emblem of one of the world’s best-known pilgrimages, St James’ Way in Spain.

Mr Wilson’s e-mail added a Methodist angle to the Spanish story.

“You’ll never believe it!” began Christopher’s message “but it’s true! The Wesley coat of arms had a scallop shell as its main emblem. For many years the emblem of both the Methodist Church in Ireland and the British Methodist church was the scallop shell - on their publications and hymn books, and there was even a scallop pin-badge emblem for Methodists to wear on their jacket lapel.”

Christopher will be sending me the “full story of the scallop emblem and the link of John and Charles with their cousins in the Anglo-Irish Ascendancy that included Sir Arthur Wellesley, who became The Duke of Wellington.”

Another note from the wide variety of readers’ letters and

e-mails waiting to be shared here comes from Donaghcloney reader Arlene Haslett, with several old photographs.

Following Phillip Darcy’s showband memories last Friday Arlene writes:

“I’ve enclosed a photo of my Uncle Trevor (by marriage. He was married to my Aunt Ruth, my Mother’s sister.) He was Welsh and they lived over here for a number of years. He was a great musician and singer and started up ‘Trevor Jenkins and the All Stars.’

“They toured around Ireland in the 1950’s and early 1960’s and played along with Dave Glover and his Showband. They also backed Ruby Murray, and appeared on UTV. I’ve enclosed a photo of Ruby that she gave to my Uncle Trevor.

“Trevor died relatively young in his early 40’s but Aunt Ruth lived on until two years ago aged 90. Their daughter Jean is currently living in Cornwall.”

When Roamer contacted Arlene to say that her uncle’s showband will be mentioned here today she replied “My elderly Mum (aged 90) and Dad will be delighted as they get the News Letter every day and have fond memories of Uncle Trevor.”