Newspapers from the edge of the world

Born out of trouble and strife in the world’s most inhospitable places, handmade newspapers were essential for passing the time and boosting morale and comradeship in the bleakest of circumstances

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The Wipers Times (1916)

Beneath the bludgeoned Belgian city of Ypres, accompanied by nothing more than a printing press, a dusty gramophone and a piano (played full blast to mask the sound of German shells), two British soldiers – Captain Fred Roberts and Lieutenant Jack Pearson – published the first 12-page edition of what became the ‘unofficial’ newspaper of the Western Front. The Wipers Times (a phonetic pronunciation of Ypres by British soldiers) contained a mix of tales from the trenches and bawdy British satire lampooning senior allied officials. Needless to say, it was a welcome reprieve from the horrifying realities of the First World War. Twenty two editions were published before the war came to a close.

The Bullfrog Miner (1905)

Finding its feet at the end of the Gold Rush, The Bullfrog Miner was one of many short-lived periodicals providing news for mining communities. According to folklore, the initial rush to the Bullfrog district caused a heated battle between two editors, CW Nicklin and Frank P Mannix, who each claimed rights to the eponymous and irrefutably catchy namesake. After heated exchanges, the dispute was eventually settled when Nicklin renamed his paper The Beatty Bullfrog Miner (far catchier).

The Vernon Guard (1890)

Legend has it that the wildest of the Wild West were, in fact, the editors of the frontier newspapers that circulated throughout the Cattle Kingdom. Never afraid to put their opinion to paper, they were considered by many as unofficial community orators, chronicling the lives of their readership. So outspoken was the editor of the Vernon Guard, he once met with the threat of suffering a “sufficient number of holes” by the local sheriff. Sources suggest the editor did meet an untimely end; the pen is not, it would seem, mightier than a gun.

The Snowbound (1890)

The Snowbound is the stuff of journalistic legend. The story goes that in 1890, during a perilous Nevada winter, 600 passengers were stranded in Reno on the Southern Pacific Railroad. George T McCully took it upon himself to relieve the distress of his freezing companions by printing a paper. The Snowbound, “issued every weekday afternoon by S P Prisoner in Car No. 36”, was a four-page daily with the outside pages written in blue ink and the inside written in pencil. Sources suggest the publication wasn’t entirely successful, possibly because the editor charged the princely sum of 25¢ per issue.

The Antarctic Sun (1997)

Serving scientists, explorers and polar gardeners alike, The Antarctic Sun reports on all manner of news from this remote part of the world, funded by the National Science Foundation as part of the US Antarctic Programme. Expect to find stories on procedure for budding physicists on the search for neutrinos, comic strips, musings on the ‘utilitarian’ beauty of research station architecture and the cold hard facts of life in a sub-zero climate. The current editor, Mike Lucibella, publishes weekly during the austral summer, with the occasional mid-winter special.

Words by Matthew Iredale

These stories feature in issue 8 of Ernest Journal, alongside a fascinating article about the history of polar newspapers, written by Professor Elizabeth Leane. Pick up a copy of issue 8 today.

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Lighthouses of the British Isles

Britain’s coastline is punctuated by over 300 lighthouses, built in some of the most inhospitable places. Illustrator Ben Langworthy embarked on a mission to draw every single one of them and tell their stories – we shine a light on three.

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Ardnamurchan Point

Ardnamurchan is the most westerly point of mainland UK. Local legends tell of premonitions, kings and great battles, and there may be a husk of truth in such tales – in 2011, archaeologists uncovered a Viking boat burial nearby. The lighthouse, built in an ‘Egyptian’ style, was designed by Alan Stevenson (one of the great Scottish engineers) and fi rst lit in 1849. Today you can call in for a cuppa at the keepers’ cottages.

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Trwyn Du

Trwyn Du, meaning ‘black point’ in Welsh, was first lit in 1838 and stands at around 96ft high, overlooking Puffin Island. Its engineer James Walker, keen to pioneer new innovations, installed an early example of a water closet with a drain at the base of the tower. This proved a bad idea during storms, when seawater had a tendency to surge up the drain, giving a nasty shock to any unsuspecting keeper using the facilities at the time.

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Bell Rock

The oldest lighthouse still in use in the world, Bell Rock is named after the rock on which it sits. How the rock gained its name is immortalised in the ballad ‘The Inchcape Rock’, written by Robert Southey in 1802. In the tale, the Abbot of Arbroath installs a bell on the rock to warn mariners of the reef, but a villainous pirate throws the bell into the sea. In a twist of fate, the pirate is himself later wrecked upon the rocks.

Follow Ben’s progress on Instagram @benlangworthyillustration or via his column at caughtbytheriver.net.

You can also buy signed A4 prints of Ben’s lighthouses on his etsy page.

Pie glossary

From throwaway crusts to royal banquet centrepieces, our beloved pie has a weird and wonderful history stowed away behind its pantry door. 

Illustration by Sue Gent

Illustration by Sue Gent

Cow heel (Cumbria and Lancashire)
The fatty cartilage around a cow’s heel was used to make a sticky and sweet gravy in a pie.

Swan (Nottinghamshire) 
The finest pieces of swan meat, stewed with sugar and spices and served in a Budby pie.

Lambs tail (Cotswolds and Kent) 
After docking the tails from lambs, the wool would be removed, the tails joined and stewed with root veg. Two dozen tails would be required for a pie. 

Sparrow brains
In a courageous tart these were mixed with sweet potatoes and fruit.The name likely refers to the rumoured aphrodisiac qualities of the dish. 

Rook
When young rooks were ‘cleared’ in spring, the breast and legs would be simmered in milk before being baked in a pie.The rest of the bird was too bitter for eating.

Larks
Recommended by Mrs Beeton to be served as an entree, these birds would be baked whole in a pie, bones and all. 

Intestines (Cornwall) 
The appetising sounding muggety pie contained cow entrails, boiled, sliced and mixed with cream and parsley.

Testicles
You could be forgiven for not knowing that ‘stones’ referred to testicles in the 18h century. Blanched and sliced, they were the main ingredient of a lambstone pie, mixed with artichokes and sweetbreads.

Piglests (Cornwall)
Or to be more specific, prematurely born piglets, the main ingredient of a tiddago pie.

Udder
Boiled and sliced with tongue and mixed with raisins, an udder pie was apparently tasty hot or cold.

Words: Steph Wetherell; thelocavore.co.uk

This featured in issue 7 of Ernest Journal, on sale now.

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Metheglin: the king's brew

Courtier, privateer, diplomat, swordsman, theologian, alchemist and incurable romantic, Sir Kenelm Digby was the sort of character you simply couldn’t make up. Oddly enough though, these days Digby is most revered among home brewers... 

Image by Jesse Wild

Image by Jesse Wild

Sir Kenelm Digby  (1603-1665) was a noted foodie, and he kept extensive notebooks of recipes encountered both in London and on his travels. These were published after his death by an enterprising steward under the title The Closet of Sir Kenelm Digby Knight Opened (1669).

Among dishes with fantastic names like “a good quaking bag pudding” or “pease of the seedy buds of tulips”, there are no less than 115 different booze recipes, mainly for metheglin – or flavoured mead.  Kenelm got this brew from “Master Webbe, who maketh the King’s Meathe”. I’ve scaled it down considerably (Webbe’s recipe makes 300 bottles, but eight is probably enough to start with), and switched most of the fresh ingredients for dry ones. It’s strong and sweet, with a rather medicinal flavour.

1. Bring 10 litres of water to the boil. Add 5g of dried hops (I used East Kent Goldings) and boil for half an hour. Putting your ingredients in muslin bags will save you straining them off later.

2. Remove the hops, and stir in 1.6kg of honey. Boil for an hour, skimming occasionally.

3. Add 5g dried rose petals; 2 teaspoons each of dried rosemary, thyme and marjoram; 1 teaspoon of mint; 5g fresh ginger ; a stick of cinnamon and 4 tablespoons of oloroso (sweet) sherry. Webbe liked it with cloves and mace too, but “the King did not care for them”.

4. Boil for half an hour, then strain off the liquid into a sterilised fermenter and let it cool. If you want to check the specific gravity with a hydrometer (or an egg), it should be around 1075.

5. Whisk vigorously, then pitch half a teaspoon of yeast nutrient and 2 teaspoons of wine yeast. By the next day it should be fizzing nicely.

6. Leave it to ferment out and clear (mine took a few weeks), then siphon it off into sterilised wine bottles (corks rather than screw tops). Kenelm reckoned it would be ready to drink in a month or two, but it will keep much longer. 

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Joly Braime is a writer and home brewer. He spends his leisure time tramping the moors or filling his coal shed with homemade alcohol.
 

jolybraime.co.uk

 

 

 

 


To learn more about Sir Kenelm Digby, pick up a copy of issue 7, on sale now.

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A skin read

It’s widely said that everyone has a book inside them, less common is the knowledge that some people have actually had books made from the outsides of them. Duncan Haskell enters the dark world of anthropodermic bibliopegy

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Anthropodermic bibliopegy, the process of binding books in human skin, reached its macabre peak in the 19th century and was of particular interest to medical professionals who had access to cadavers. Some examples include the infamous Edinburgh murderer William Burke (of Burke and Hare fame) who was turned into a small pocket book after his execution in 1829, and John Horwood, the first man to be hanged at Bristol Gaol in 1821, whose skin now envelopes an account of his crime. The Historical Medical Library in Philadelphia houses the largest collection, with five such grisly tomes.

A twist to this tale is provided by The Anthropodermic Book Project. Suspecting that some of these alleged skin-bound volumes were nothing more than a tall story, they’ve begun testing specimens using a process known as peptide mass fingerprinting (PMF). Of the 31 tested, only 18 have been confirmed as human.

It remains uncertain whether the practice was sheer vanity, a deterrent to criminals or an unusual reminder of our own morality. What is clear though is that it’s definitely okay to judge these books by their covers. 

Words: Duncan Haskell

Delve into the findings at anthropodermicbooks.org

Anthropodermic bibliopegy features in issue 7 of Ernest Journal, on sale now.

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