Nevison Goes North!

Last Friday, the highwayman ‘Swift Nicks’ Nevison fled further north-west than he has ever done before, trouble hot on his heels as usual, all the way to a school near Kendal. There, his old friend, one of the teachers, was happy to hide him until it was dark, and the gregarious Nevison was very pleased to find he would have good company for the day.

The children had never met a highwayman before, and so the loquacious rogue began telling them tales of his adventures. Here he explains the usefulness, indeed the necessity, of a pistol and a pair of formidable words, ‘stand’ and ‘deliver’, to a gentleman of the road such as he.

Of course, he added, not only does he follow the fashion and have the air and carriage of a gentleman, he has the manners too – being most courteous when he takes purses, and always saying thank you.

Once he discovered that the children were accomplished scholars, he asked for volunteers to read out some of the stories about him, so that he could tell the class the much more exciting, true versions, in which, of course, he is more of a hero than a villain, just like Robin Hood.

The children went on to write letters of complaint to the London Gazette (concerning the lies printed about him), as well as improving a ballad so that he wouldn’t be turning in his grave at the singing of it! They even corrected the erroneous stories. Later on, the children helpfully came up with some new tricks he could try, to escape goal or a pursuing constable. They even fashioned some portrait likenesses to accompany the tales of his deeds.

If you would like Nevison to regale your children with his stories, immersing them in the world of historical highway robbers, perhaps because they are studying the famous poem, or mastering the art of persuasive writing, then do be in touch. Or perhaps you might be interested in one of my other characters, such as Sir William Petty (Great Fire of London or the Great Plague of 1665), Guy Fawkes, Captain Burwash the pirate or one of Drake’s sailors? If so, please have a look at the variety I can offer on my page of Characters.

I hope to hear from you.

(Thank you to Mr Turley for sending me the pictures.)

London’s Burning, in Doncaster!

Sir William uses a flint, steel and char-cloth to show the children how servants can start a fire!

This Tuesday I visited a school in Doncaster to work with two classes of Year 1 children. I had a lovely day, and so did they. As their teacher wrote to me afterwards:

“I just wanted to email you to say thank you so much for Tuesday. It was such a fantastically memorable day. The children rated it an overall 100/10!”

Sir William spent the whole day with all the children, telling them the story of the Great Fire in the morning. All the children joined in two big activities and Sir William showed them exactly where the events happened on his big map of London. He even showed them a leather bucket just like they have in London.

In the afternoon, the two classes worked on a map for a new, safer London, in which the houses were built in such a way that a third Great Fire (the first one was in 1212!) would be a lot less likely. 26 children each had their own part of London to plan, making a very large map (in exactly the shape of the hole left by the fire) when they joined them all together.

Here you can see the fancy fountains one child has drawn in the new parks, and the statues of the King and Queen another has drawn in theirs.

At the end of the day Sir William had to stand very still so that the children could sketch a likeness of him. I think they did a very good job.

If you might like to receive one of my visitors from the past, perhaps Sir William Petty (Great Fire of London or the Great Plague of 1665), or any of my characters – from Guy Fawkes to a Highwayman, from a pirate to a Civil War musketeer – then please have a look at the variety I can offer on my page of Characters.

I look forward to hearing from you.

New Things for a New Start!

With my number of bookings until now still not quite what they usually are (due to the pandemic) I have had more time to read, research, purchase and make things. I can’t make a news story out of books I have been studying, but here are two new items of clothing I can show you.

A couple of months ago I got a new hat to go with my new wig. It is modelled on the one that King Charles II is wearing in a portrait, and made suitably big to go over my wig.

I have also been very busy making a new coat for Nevison the highwayman, which I finished only last week. It has 51 buttons (49 real buttonholes plus 12 fake buttonholes on the cuffs, all handstitched) and is made of woollen cloth, linen lining, linen thread and pewter buttons.

I know a tailor would work much quicker than me, but I have to go at a really steady pace to avoid disasters. This took me three weeks to make. I made my usual mistake of cutting one panel out the wrong way around – no matter how hard I tried not to do so this time – but I had bought enough woollen cloth to cover this now predictable error. I dreaded the thought of messing up just one button hole. In the end only one was odd, being slightly longer than the others, which no-one will notice. I am not even sure I can find it myself.

I went for darkest blue rather than the somewhat less historically accurate black (a very expensive dye which would fade easily when worn outside often). I (and Nevison) need this new one as the one I made 20 years ago seems to have mysteriously shrunk on me. I guess all the pies, puddings and pasties Nevison’s been enjoying have had their effect! Oh, and I tore it on a pistol, as one does! A ‘gentleman of the road‘ should look wealthy. What’s the point of being a highwayman if one cannot follow the fashion?

Here you can see it front and back. It is quite heavy!

I am quite proud of the button holes, enough to risk showing a close up – and I did pick at random instead of looking for the best one!

Now that ‘things’ are returning to normality, perhaps you would like a visit from Sir William Petty (Great Fire of London and the Great Plague of 1665), or John Nevison the highwayman, or any of my characters? If so, please have a look at the variety I can offer on my page of Characters and be in touch!

London Bigwigs!

Although once again there is a lull in my bookings, what with the 2021 lockdown, some new developments are a-happening. I am excitedly awaiting a new hat for Sir William Petty, but I have already received his new wig.

I think Lynn Kelly of  In Vogue and Vintage has done a truly marvelous job making the modern version look just like the version shown in Sir William’s 1680’s portrait.


I am still, believe it or not, ten years off the age that Sir William was in this portrait (the painting was made ‘Anno Etatis Suae 63‘). By the time I match his age I think I might look even more like him!

Thank you Lynn for taking me another step forwards in my portrayal of Sir William. And thank you James for taking the photograph. The historical wig part of Lynn’s website (Hairstory) can be found at http://www.invogueandvintage.co.uk/theatre/.

When your school is ready to start receiving visitors from the past once more, perhaps Sir William Petty (Great Fire of London and the Great Plague of 1665) or any of my characters, please have a look at the variety I can offer on my page of Characters.

I look forward to hearing from you, and to recommencing my school visits as soon as it is safe for all concerned.

 

 

 

What a Year! (In fact, two years – 1605 and 2020.)

I suppose 1605 was a tense year for Guy Fawkes, but perhaps all our experiences of 2020 have rivaled his nervousness and unease?

Yet, after a long period of school closures I am, at last, busy, busy, busy again. I have even begun taking bookings for next November. Hurray!

Having had the dreaded pestilence myself I am most likely, as some headteachers have put it, a ‘low risk’! Mind you, I am following all the Covid protocols, in every school, and changing just about everything I do on all my character days to reduce any possibility of transmission from anyone to anyone. I do get through a lot of soap, hand sanitiser gel and anti-bacterial wipes, but everyone working in schools is in the same situation!

Having seen how discombobulated many children have become as a consequence of the long lock-down, and the worry they have had concerning the news and the rules, I am so glad that schools have opened to give some normality to them, so they can learn again in so many ways. I am proud of all the staff I have worked with too – so brave and committed to the children.

The picture is of my last day as ‘Guido’ Fawkes this year, before I began a run of Great Fire of London and Highwayman days. It was also, like every year, the last day of my beard and ‘tache! I do grow attached to them (as they do to me) every year!

To see which of my historical characters you might want to visit, please take a look at my page of Characters. I look forward to hearing from you.