Competitions nos. 138A and 138B: results

Vita Sackville-West asks for a piece (up to 300 words) on ‘How I Should Run The Southern Railway’: technical but practical, humorous but sensible. And not libellous.

Since the first line was laid, the British people have been inclined to moan about railways, and so VSW shouldn’t be surprised that almost all she got was a display of “disgruntled ill-temper” and very little that was constructive. She complains that it can’t be easy managing suburban traffic (I am actually not sure if she is being facetious, so brain-washed am I by years of anti-railway jokes). One of the runners-up is, amazingly, one Michael Bonavia, born in 1909, and so, at this point, a recent economics graduate from Cambridge, and a junior merchant banker with Rothschild and Sons. But 13 years later, he joined the London and North-East Railway as General Manager, and even later, was director of the Channel Tunnel project that came to grief in 1975. He was still alive, and on the train, when the Channel Tunnel finally opened in 1994. He may have been one of the many who apparently suggested ending the system of first-class carriages (that’s a surprise). He died in 1999, having been the author of a number of books about rail travel:

Bonavia The winners are two new names, Midory, and Sales. Of the latter, Sackville-West remarks that he is ‘jocular rather than practical, although he is really witty. (I hope he will forgive me this private pun, which he alone will be in a position to appreciate.)’ Really? So is my guess that he is Sir Robert Witt, who nearly won the previous week, especially far from the mark?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt is quite surprising how many of these have come to pass, although I have yet to see a film. 3 a) should become a law.


The B competition was for a hymn of Love or Hate to … the Albert Memorial. The only reason I can suggest why, is that July 1932 had seen its sixtieth anniversary.

Albert Memorial

The Hymns of Love were said to be serious and sentimental. Attila, W.R.Y, Lester Ralph, Pibwob, Gerald Summers, W.A. Rathkey, and of course, T.E. Casson are commended. The prizes go to W. Hodgson Burnet and E.W.Fordham for Hate and Love respectively.


A little further on in the WR that week is a very curious poem. You may have noticed that, uncharacteristically, Seacape has not been commended in this competition. However, he is present in the WR, in this effort:


At first sight, this might well seem to be some kind of obituary (but I know better than that). Is it a statement of retirement from the fray (Seacape does indeed vanish for a bit, but makes a return). And why is it the poem called S.M.G. – is this some Latin reduced to three letters (as in R.I.P.)? (The answer may be ‘Some Must Go’.) The named competitors (did Seacape write it? I assume so) are all familiar names. It’s true that Gertrude Pitt rarely wins the WR competition, but she was wreaking havoc in other competitions, and was used as an example by a losing Dylan Thomas of the kind of person who would win. The one that interests me is Sylvia Groves. She has won a couple of times, but nothing like as often as the others. She’s a surprising name to choose. I’m torn three ways on this – a) she’s an irrelevance, b) she is in any case a pun on ‘sylvan groves’ and c) she is S.M.G. as in the title, in which case, is she … but no, I am sure Seacape is male. Any thoughts?


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