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The Great Experiment is a Success!

After a long time in the making, my Time Traveller version of Sir William Petty is at last ready for schools. He’s been gently tested twice at Skipton Castle, tweaked, then dropped in at the deep end (of time?) in a Halifax school a couple of weeks ago, where I worked with the whole school, concentrating on Key Stage 2.


As I develop him further I will come up with formats for differing age groups and numbers of classes. I envisage he will work with anything from one class to the whole school, rather like my pirate character. The fewer the classes, however, the more each individual child will get out of their interaction with the character.

All of my other characters believe they’re still in their own time, which makes this character a new experience for me – Sir William is the first who can notice and directly address the present day rather than talking solely about his own world. It is a delight to see the children first realising how much I don’t know about their world despite the fact I seem very well informed about all sorts of matters, then struggling to work out how exactly they can satisfactorily explain their own world to me.


If you want to know more about Sir William the Time Traveller, please click here. And if you want him to visit your school, do please get in touch.

In the Middle of Guy Fawkes!


Just now I am right in the middle of my annual two week run as Guy Fawkes, and having a great time being him. Last week I met 12 (mostly) Key Stage 1 classes (4 then 1 then 2 then 1 then 4) plus a bunch of other classes who came to see the assembly introduction to the day.

Next week, more of the same, and then I am back to my more usual characters for three more fully booked weeks, with just one last day as Fawkes in late November and then the beard retires until next summer.

These pictures are from a day with one class in a local school (thanks Mistress ‘B’ for taking them!) when Master Guido worked with a year one class all day. Below you’ll see someone (aged 6) has made a very pertinent point which Guy Fawkes thinks is worthy of notice.


The children learned how to write in a secret cipher, being the one used by the catholics Anthony Babington and Father John Ballard in their communications with Mary Queen of Scots. If only Walsingham’s spies had not know the cipher as well as how to intercept the letters things might have been different. Guy Fawkes has high hopes that this time they will not fail. He’s so confident, in fact, that he can even laugh about it all!


I am surprised he feels so happy this close to the fateful 5th November!

I know it’ll be a while (about 11.5 months I reckon) before I am Fawkes again, but to see which of my various characters you might like to visit your school, please take a look at my page of Characters. I look forward to hearing from you.


No Prey, No Pay (on a Friday Night)!

It’s not only children that Captain Burwash regales with his tales of privateers and plain old pirates. Yesterday evening, after the Calder Probus Club members had finished their hearty repast, he spoke to them of how chasers chased the chase, and told of the deeds of Blackbeard, Morgan, Calico Jack, Anne Bonny and Mary Read (amongst others). As his audience were a tad older than his regular listeners, he added in some of the more unsavoury parts of the stories – let’s just say that pirates can be even ‘naughtier’ than he tells children!

The listeners asked him about pieces of eight, jolly rogers and muskets, and all sorts of other things, which luckily he just so happened to have with him. After his talk, he took the opportunity to chat to some of the individuals there.

Here he is explaining how the lock of his stolen French Fusil works.


And here he is wondering whether he should have so readily disarmed himself!


The evening was a success, although the captain was worried that the ladies amongst the audience might suffer from nightmares that night as a consequence of his plainspoken account of his fellow sea rovers!

If you want to know more about Captain Burwash, please click here. And if you want him to visit your school, do please get in touch.

A War Without Enemies!

Last weekend (being August 1645) Colonel Sir John Mallory, the governor of Skipton Castle, attempted to reassure the many good folk who had sought refuge in the castle that all would be well. Although Commissary General Sydenham Poyntz and several thousand Northern Association soldiers had taken the town and come within pistol shot of the castle walls, they were so busy arguing amongst themselves (‘playing a german game’ as some of Mallory’s officers had put it) over their lack of pay that they had yet to put the garrison to any particular trouble. Understandably, people were still worried, what with the batteries being built on Park Hill and Sod Hill. If artillery pieces of sufficient size were brought and sited there then all within would be in danger.


As he spoke he put on a brave face, even making light of their situation, and explained that he would negotiate a surrender under honourable terms long before the garrison was made to suffer over much. Wish so many in the castle he was able to discover much intelligence concerning the king’s deteriorating cause in the rest of Yorkshire and beyond, scouring his maps to place their reports …


Of course there were some who found it all bewildering and worrisome, including one little mannikin who simply scratched his head in confusion and concern.


(Thank you Thomas, my youngest boy, for your very fine, if accidental, acting.)

I have to admit I don’t do too many English Civil war days in schools as not too many schools study said topic. But if you do and you are interested in a visit then click on a Civil War Castle Governor to find out more. To see which of my other characters you might like to visit your school, please take a look at my page of Characters. I hope to hear from you.

A Short but Merry Life!

Ten days ago the infamous highway robber John ‘Swift Nicks’ Nevison once again found himself hiding from the hue and cry at Skipton castle. Luckily, he did not want for company, as the steward (a drinking friend of his) allowed a great number of folk in the visit the castle, all of whom he believed could be trusted with keeping Nevison’s presence secret until his getaway after dark.

The crowd included several lads who Nevison had met previously upon his travels, and he soon fell into conversation. After bemoaning his lack of ale …


… and the fact that the steward refused to give him any more (saying if he was to hide a highwayman for the day then he wanted that highwayman sober throughout for his own good) Nevison wondered if the lads might make good cutpurses or pickpockets. They were certainly too short to make much of an impression as ‘gentlemen of the road’ (he never liked the term highway robber), but if they were nimble fingered and fleet of foot might yet profit from the noble art of the nip and foist. By the use of some bells and string, upon which a purse could be hung, he encouraged the little lads to try their best to remove the prize without the slightest of tinkling sounds.


When that proved impossible, he decided to show them how distraction might be employed instead. Clearing an area for the game, and taking the role of the coney himself, one boy became the stall and another the coney-catcher. Soon umpteen children in the castle yard were trying their luck at plucking a purse from Nevison’s coat pocket without him noticing!


This coming weekend a far more respectable character will inhabit the castle, no less a personage than Colonel Sir John Mallory, governor of its royalist garrison. His troubles make Nevison’s concerns seem trivial, what with the lives of everyone in the castle depending on his decisions!

In the meantime, if you like the idea of a highwayman visiting your school, then please click on John Nevison to find out more.

Note: It is very useful when one’s own boys and some old friends come to visit on one of my days, as it means that not only is there someone to take photographs, but I can also use those photographs afterwards. Thanks Ruth, James, Thomas, Daniel, Duncan, Brian and Jackie!