(30th. Oct. 2002) Just received the latest edition of Facts & Fiction magazine. A bumper 32 pages! Full of stories, reviews and comment –it gets bigger and better – At only £10.00 for a year’s subscription (four editions) it is great value. For more information, contact Pete Castle, Facts & Fiction, 42, Mill Street, Belper, Derbyshire, DE56 1DT(U.K.) Tel: 01773-822829
And before you ask, No, Pete hasn’t asked me to write this. I just like the magazine and think everybody should read it!
(27th. Nov. 2002) IT TAKES ALL SORTS!
I am currently telling stories each weekend in Selfridges Department Store at Manchester's Trafford Centre. At present, they have me placed on the ground floor adjacent to the children's department.
The unit from which I worked last year is being painted so they have given me Santa's chair to sit in (Very ornate!). Santa doesn't formally arrive until a week on Thursday. They have also provided half a dozen cushions at my feet for children to sit on while I tell my tales.
Last Sunday, two middle-aged ladies stopped and asked me what I was selling. I explained that I wasn't selling anything and that I was telling stories. "Oh I see." one of them replied, "Well I'm afraid we can't stay, we're only here for the day!"
There's no answer to that!
(28th. Nov. 2002) SCOTTISH FOLKTALES
I recently received an email from Joe Talbot, a budding storyteller from Kentucky. He is a part-time supply teacher in an elementary school. He said that he sometimes tells stories to the children in his classroom and has been surprised at the positive reaction he receives.
He mostly tells Kipling (I imagine the ’Just So’ stories, although he didn’t say) and Appalachian tales.
He said that he has Scottish ancestry and could I point him in the direction of Scottish Folktales.
As a result of our exchanges, I realised that I have been somewhat neglecting my Folktales Page and so in order to rectify the situation, I have just added the first of a selection of Scottish stories written by Anna Blair.
The story is one of about fifty in her book, ‘Tales of Ayrshire’, a super publication, unfortunately now out of print. But despair not! I have been in touch with Ms. Blair and she has kindly given me permission to share some of the stories with you. The first very amusing tale is, as previously mentioned, included on my
She has written two other books on Scottish Folktales and is sending them to me. I shall sift through them when they arrive and pass on the stories that I think you will enjoy.
(4th. Jan. 2003) JACK AND THE BEANSTALK – The REAL Story!
Last Saturday and Sunday I watched the two-part made for T.V. film with the above title on Sky One.
It was a product of Jim Henson’s Creature Shop and looked promising. The cast suggested fine entertainment (Vanessa Redgrave, Richard Attenborough, Matthew Modine and lots of additional famous names in support).
Part one was visually excellent, as you would expect from the Jim Henson team. The period was set initially in the present time but quickly moved to early 17th. Century (I felt that the original story was set earlier than that – however, I could be wrong).
The action/business in the original plot section has a slightly English traditional ‘Pantomime’ feel – but that’s ok.
The film begins with faceless Narrator (Vanessa Redgrave) setting the tone with a suitable and effective Celtic/guttural accent and introducing the story from the perspective of the present time:
Wealthy American businessman, Jack Robinson (Matthew Modine) is building a new casino on the site of the family castle in England when the construction team discover the skeletal remains of a giant! Jack learns from his Aunt Wilhelmina (Redgrave) that he is related (albeit fifteen generations distant) to young Jack who, 400 years earlier, climbed a beanstalk into the sky and returned with a goose that lays golden eggs, plus a harp that plays itself (this part of the original tale is portrayed).
Modern Jack learns of a curse placed on his ancestors that can only be removed by the return of the harp and the goose to the Kingdom in the sky from whence they came. Part One is fine and perfectly credible as a story.
In Part Two however I felt that it somewhat lost its way. There were one or two production details that I found unacceptable. For instance, the part of early Jack’s mum is played by the wonderful Julia Mackenzie. In Part Two, we are asked to believe that the Countess Wihelmina is the original Jack’s mother and the one who was the actual slayer of the giant!
Another incongruity that disturbed me was the implication that the original Jack was a hero in stealing the goose and harp from a mean and bullying giant, but when as the story reveals, the giant is seen to be kind and has a sweet nature, then Jack is condemned as a thief and a murderer!
Is theft and murder no less theft and murder whether the victim is good or bad?
Clive Hopwood is a storyteller who, when having told this and other similar Jack stories to children, often asks them how they view Jack’s behaviour. He invariably lives by his wits and often wins the day by robbery or murder!
This otherwise visually and technically impressive film made for television, seems only to emphasise that fact.
Your comments please?
(Feb. 19th. 2003)
NATIONAL STORYTELLING WEEK – (February 2nd to 8th.).
Sunday, 2nd February. Stanley Park (Blackpool) event:
Coded Message Treasure Trail
About 60 families participated and we sent them off around the park with an A4 sheet of instructions.
They had to search for coloured cards bearing numbers. The colours represented words and the numbers, letters of the alphabet.
When they had found all of the cards and converted the numbers into letters, they then had to re-arrange the letters to form words (the differing colours enabling them to do this). The final task was to arrange the words to reveal a message – in this case, ‘Stanley Park For Your Delight’. We have done it before (with different messages of course!) and it works rather well.
I remained in the park conservatory studio telling stories and performing magic for those who preferred to wait for their more adventurous relatives to return.
Prizes were awarded to several of those who correctly identified the message. The general consensus was that everyone had fun! Which is what it was all about.
I have been working closely, over the last year, with the 'Parks & Landscapes Department' of Blackpool Borough Council. Both in a performing capacity (Story-walks and other miscellaneous events) and also as an occasional events adviser.
If YOU happen to be involved in the administration of municipal parks or country centres and would like some original ideas (I have over ten years experience of devising and presenting this type of activity), please contact me. Click on the email link above and let me know your requirements.
(30th. March 2003)
FACTS & FICTION Magazine.
News just in from Pete Castle, editor and general factotum of Facts & Fiction, informing me that the magazine now has its own website.
I have mentioned before, how much I enjoy reading this publication and recommend it to all storytelling enthusiasts.
At just an annual £10.00 subscription for this quarterly magazine (that's four a year, Peter!), containing stories, reviews and comment, I think it excellent value. Find out for yourself by CLICKING ON:
(17th. April 2003)
Following a very enjoyable SfS Gathering at Woodbridge, I stayed on in Essex/Suffolk with relatives for a few days. We took a drive out to Manningtree, operational headquarters of Matthew Hopkins, self-styled and notorious 17th. Century ‘Witch-Finder General'.
At The Thorn Hotel, in the nearby village of Mistley, there is a ‘Matthew Hopkins Room’. Unfortunately nothing was open during our visit but I shall return! I did manage to pick up some information at the Manningtree Library. Without doubt, Hopkins was a nasty piece of work and I will eventually write something for the ‘Scary Stories’ page.
(22nd. May. 2003)
PATTY HARRISON’S MUM
Last year I received an email from Patty Harrison, an American lady now living in Surrey. Her mother was planning a visit and wanted to do some storytelling while in the UK. Patty was asking for suggestions as to where and how her mother might obtain some bookings.
I recently turned up Patty’s email and was curious to know if her mum came and how successful she was in getting work, so I emailed Patty to find out!
It seems that her mum made the visit and performed twice at Eastwick Infant School, in Bookham, Surrey. – No pay but much acclaim!
Her mum apparently makes up her own stories as she goes along and acts them out. Patty says her mum uses a ‘theatrical laugh’ (!) which gets the kids going! Apparently they were copying her after the show! Always a good sign that you have captured the imagination! She sounds like a ‘fun’ lady worthy of a wider audience.
She is back home now in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania (about 30 miles from Pittsburgh) and her name is Connie Bretz.
Any school or storytelling promoter in that area looking for an ‘original’ storyteller, should certainly give Connie
some serious consideration.
(21st. June 2003)
I spent four hours today, in my Dr. Dee Wizard’s garb, performing magic and telling stories at Waterstones Bookshop in Preston. The launch of the new Harry Potter book was the reason. It was quite busy without being packed out.
On Monday next (23rd) I shall be telling stories at a local high school where they are presenting an ‘Intake Day’ for the year six primary school children who will be joining them after the summer recess.
I have another one a week later in Chorley. Should be fun.
Those of you who are regular visitors to this web-site will have noticed that I have added a couple of ‘promotional pages’
Stories of the Sea
Teddy Bear Tales
They were just meant to be the on-line equivalent of an A5 flyer.
Within three days of their appearance, on checking my traffic statistics, I discovered that the ‘Teddy Bear Tales’ page had become the second most visited of all the pages in the site! I felt obliged to add some additional teddy bear material and will shortly add in more.
Since working on the teddy bear presentation, I have been amazed at the amount of interest in the subject world-wide. We all know that teddy bears are popular with children but the interest shown by adults is phenomenal! Watch this space!
20th. July 2006
Yesterday, I was watching my son mow his lawn. When he finished cutting the grass, he got out the weed killer to destroy the dandelions, daisies and buttercups. I remarked that I thought that they were quite pretty flowers that required little maintenance.
He delivered a whithering look in my direction as he replied, "Yeah - right!"
Today I received the following story from my U.S. friend Ed Solomon.
Timely or what?
YARD WORK - AS VIEWED FROM HEAVEN
(overheard in a conversation between God and St. Francis):
God: "Francis, you know all about gardens and nature; what in the
world is going on down there in the U.S.? What happened to the
dandelions, violets, thistles and the stuff I started eons ago? I had a perfect no-maintenance garden plan. Those plants grow in any type of soil, withstand drought, and multiply with abandon. The nectar from the long-lasting blossoms attracts butterflies, honeybees, and flocks of songbirds. I expected to see a vast garden of color by now. All I see are patches of green".
St. Francis: "It's the tribes that settled there, Lord. They are
called the Suburbanites. They started calling your flowers "weeds" and went to great lengths to kill them and replace them
God: "Grass? But it is so boring, it's not colorful. It doesn't
attract butterflies, bees or birds, only grubs and sod worms.
It's temperamental with temperatures. Do these Suburbanites
really want grass growing there?"
St. Francis: "Apparently not, Lord. As soon as it has grown a
little, they cut it....sometimes two times a week."
God: "They cut it? Do they bale it like hay?"
St. Francis: "Not exactly, Lord. Most of them rake it up and put
it in bags."
God: "They bag it? Why? Is it a cash crop? Do they sell
St. Francis: "No sir, just the opposite. They pay to throw it
God: "Now let me get this straight...they fertilize it to make it
grow and when it does grow, they cut it off and pay to throw it
St. Francis: "Yes, sir."
God: "These Suburbanites must be relieved in the summer when we
cut back on the rain and turn up the heat. That surely slows
the growth and saves them a lot of work."
St. Francis: "You aren't going to believe this Lord, but when the
grass stops growing so fast, they drag out hoses and pay more
money to water it so they can continue to mow it and pay to get
rid of it."
God: "What nonsense! At least they kept some of the trees. That
was a sheer stroke of genius, if I do say so myself. The trees
grow leaves in the spring to provide beauty and shade in the
summer. In the autumn they fall to the ground and form a
natural blanket to keep the moisture in the soil and protect the
trees and bushes. Plus, as they rot, the leaves become compost
to enhance the soil. It's a natural circle of life."
St. Francis: "You'd better sit down, Lord. As soon as the leaves
fall, the Suburbanites rake them into great piles and pay to
have them hauled away."
God: "No way! What do they do to protect the shrubs and tree
roots in the winter to keep the soil moist and loose?"
St Francis: "After throwing the leaves away, they go out and buy
something called mulch. They haul it home and spread it around
in place of the leaves."
God: "And where do they get this mulch?"
St. Francis: "They cut down the trees and grind them up to make
God: "Enough! I don't want to think about this anymore. Saint
Catherine, you're in charge of the arts. What movie have you
scheduled for us tonight?"
St. Catherine: "Dumb and Dumber," Lord. It's a really stupid
God: "Never mind--I think I just heard the whole story from Saint
19th. July 2006
DAVY JONES' LOCKER
I recently received a request from Matt Jones, asking me for information about Davy Jones. (Maybe he thinks he might be a descendant!).
The Davy Jones to which he refers is not, I think, one of the featured singers of 'The Monkees' 1970's 'pop band.
There has been renewed interest since the release of the latest "Pirates of the Caribbean" movie in which 'Davy Jones', played by the wonderful Bill Nighy is the villain.
Davy Jones' Locker' is a sailor's euphemism for the bottom of the sea. No one knows for sure where the term originated but there are documentary references that go back to the 16th. Century.
There is a tale (in an old English ballad) of the landlord of a London pub whose name was Davy Jones. In the song, he is said to have stored his rum in a locker at the back of his alehouse.
Customers who became excessively drunk and rowdy were consigned to Davy Jones' rum locker and then, after closing time, Jones would throw the drunks on to ships that were docked at the nearby quayside.
When they awoke, they were often far out to sea and either made to work for their keep, or if not required, thrown overboard!
Hence, 'Davy Jones' Locker' frequently meant a watery grave!
In later times, Davy Jones' Locker became the sailor's equivalent of 'Hell', his mortal remains sinking to the bottom of the sea, while the soul would ascend (hopefully!) to 'Fiddler's Green' (sailor's Heaven).
For more information
23rd. August 2005
Fantastic True-life Murder Mystery!
Here's another great tale from my American friend, Ed Solomon. It reads like an O. Henry story, but in fact is absolutely true!
Murder or Suicide?
Unbelievable! Do you like to read a good murder mystery? Not even Law and Order would attempt to capture this mess. This is an unbelievable twist of fate!!!!
At the 1994 annual awards dinner given for Forensic Science, AAFS President Dr. Don Harper Mills astounded his audience with the legal complications of a bizarre death. Here is the story:
On March 23, 1994...... the medical examiner viewed the body of Ronald Opus, and concluded that he died from a shotgun wound to the head. Mr. Opus had jumped from the top of a ten-story building intending to commit suicide. He left a note to the effect indicating his despondency. As he fell past the ninth floor, his life was interrupted by a shotgun blast passing through a window, which killed him instantly.
Neither the shooter nor the deceased was aware that a safety net had been installed just below the eighth floor level to protect some building workers and that Ronald Opus would not have been able to complete his suicide the way he had planned.
"Ordinarily," Dr Mills continued, "Someone who sets out to commit suicide and ultimately succeeds, even though the mechanism might not be what he intended, is still defined as committing suicide." That Mr. Opus was shot on the way to certain death, but probably would not have been successful because of the safety net, caused the medical examiner to feel that he had a homicide on his hands.
The room on the ninth floor, where the shotgun blast emanated, was occupied by an elderly man and his wife. They were arguing vigorously, and he was threatening her with a shotgun! The man was so upset that when he pulled the trigger, he completely missed his wife, and the pellets went through the window, striking Mr Opus.
When one intends to kill subject "A" but kills subject "B" in the attempt, one is guilty of the murder of subject "B." When confronted with the murder charge, the old man and his wife were both adamant, and both said that they thought the shotgun was not loaded. The old man said it was a long-standing habit to threaten his wife with the unloaded shotgun. He had no intention to murder her. Therefore the killing of Mr. Opus appeared to be an accident; that is, assuming the gun had been accidentally loaded.
The continuing investigation turned up a witness who saw the old couple's son loading the shotgun about six weeks prior to the fatal accident. It transpired that the old lady had cut off her son's financial support and the son, knowing the propensity of his father to use the shotgun threateningly, loaded the gun with the expectation that his father would shoot his mother. Since the loader of the gun was aware of this he was guilty of the murder even though he didn't actually pull the trigger.
The case now becomes one of murder on the part of the son for the death of Ronald Opus. Now comes the exquisite twist... Further investigation revealed that the son was, in fact, Ronald Opus. He had become increasingly despondent over the failure of his attempt to engineer his mother's murder. This led him to jump off the ten-story building on March 23rd, only to be killed by a shotgun blast passing through the ninth story window The son, Ronald Opus, had actually murdered himself. So the medical examiner closed the case as a suicide.
A true story from Associated Press, (Reported by Kurt Westervelt)
ALI BEY – The Great Arabian Wizard!
Can anyone in PETERBOROUGH help me with information about David Lemmy, who between 1945 and the mid 1950’s electrified British variety theatres, as ALI BEY – The Great Arabian Wizard!
Ali Bey made his magical appearance from inside a cabinet and immediately approached two large ‘bran tubs’. He reached inside the tubs and tossed handfuls of bran into the air. He then took a sword and waved it over his head. This action resulted in the biggest explosion in a British theatre anyone had ever before heard - or probably ever since! Following the bang, two girls in skimpy eastern dress jumped up and out of the tubs!
The act continued for a further twenty minutes with fast, colourful, spectacular magic, closing with the dramatic ‘cremation’ of a female assistant in a gruesome looking coffin!
Anyone who saw this act would never have forgotten it! He very often closed the first half of a variety bill and members of the audience would be still gasping at the beginning of the second half – reverberations of the explosion, still ringing in their ears!
Ali Bey was born David Charles Lemmy and grew up in Peterborough, Cambridgeshire. If the act had been allowed to continue and develop as Ali Bey was planning, he would have gone down in history as one of the greatest of all British theatre magicians!
Unfortunately, a tragic accident in which a theatre safety curtain fell on his head, resulting in his hospitalisation, eventually brought his professional career to an end.
Little has been written about Ali Bey, but he was a significant presence in his time and I am currently collecting material with a view to writing his biography. I am receiving help from U.K. magicians who remember the act, but I would very much like to know more about David Lemmy, the Peterborough boy who grew up to be Ali Bey.
If anyone reading this (family, friends & acquaintances etc.) would like to help me with memories or anecdotes. I would be most grateful.
He really was a very important and significant performer of his day and Peterborough should be proud to celebrate (albeit sixty years late!) one of her sons!
Please email me at
Thank you in anticipation.
Back to Newsletter