memoirs, art and fragments by Thomas Milner

Posts tagged ‘sheffield’

The Master Cutler

Sheffield, UK

September 1978

There was a rather splendid train in those days called The Master Cutler (the honorific title of the Lord Mayor of Sheffield) which used to leave Sheffield at 7.30 and arrive at London, St. Pancras at 10 o’clock. I thoroughly approved of this service. It was a fast first-class-only Pullman commuter train with a dining car and reserved seats.

As it slid out of Sheffield I would doze for half an hour before making my way down the swaying coaches to the restaurant-car for a good old English breakfast – orange juice then eggs, bacon, sausage, tomato and toast (the whole disaster) washed down with multiple cups of coffee. I can see it now, the rattling silver cutlery, the attentive white-coated waiters bending to replenish one’s coffee cup and the damp grey-green country-side of the English Midlands flashing by.

Why do I remember that train so fondly? Maybe I select it as a metaphor, one of thousands, for an age which, however imperfect and tarnished, compares favourably with this present one with its instant gratification, communication, credit, culture of greed and corporate irresponsibility – and that jittery sense of the Human Race drifting towards some great social, economic or ecological calamity.

It’s no one’s fault by the way.

It’s just the thrust of history accelerating the world towards some inevitable conclusion.

Whatever happens, the planet (the bio-sphere) will survive, but will the Humanity which has been abusing it get away with impunity?

 Who shall inherit the earth?

Will the dominant species in the post-human era be the ant or the rat or (and here’s a thought) that twin pinnacle of evolution which decided to remain in the sea, the dolphin?

DOLPHINS INHERIT THE EARTH

Daffodils that come before the swallows dare

When our great great-grandfather moved to Thurlstone his elder brother, William Pashley Milner, stayed on at Attercliffe Hall in Sheffield. He married in 1852 Susannah Aldam, a descendant of several distinguished Quaker families. He moved later to Meersbrook Park, a house which later became the Ruskin Museum, and finally acquired Totley Hall, a fine Elizabethan mansion on the Derbyshire side of Sheffield (now a Teachers Training College, I believe)

He was an enthusiastic gardener and a small graceful daffodil preserves his name to this day.

(I tried to grow some on the terrace of our flat in Porto; for a couple a years the little delicate flowers seemed to timidly flourish but I fear that I killed them with love)

His son William Aldam Milner was a gentleman of wealth and distinction, active in public works; he was appointed High Sheriff of Derbyshire in 1911. He carried on his father’s horticultural interests, and opened his lovely gardens to the public. His wife was the sister of the notable Sheffield Cutler (or mayor) sir Samuel Roberts.

Their son Roy Denzil Milner was killed in action in 1914, a young lieutenant in the Sherwood Forresters; and the male line of this branch of the Milner family became extinct on the death of his brother William Alfred Milner.

ROY MILNER at TOTLEY HALL

Daffodils that come before the swallows dare,

And take the winds of March with beauty

The Winter’s Tale by William Shakespeare

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