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Gordon Hensman's Weatherview

By Black Country Bugle  |  Posted: September 04, 2014

  • Alexander Fleming, whose discovery of penicillin changed the world

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The Black Country

Birthplace of Industrial Revolution

Weather in Dudley for 21st – 31st August


This was a rather cool spell especially by day as cloudy skies kept the sun from raising temperatures. It was very wet and it looks as though September will turn out to be very wet as well.


1. Mean maximum 17.2, 63F

2. Anomaly -1.4

3. Mean minimum 9.6, 49.5F

4. Anomaly -1.2

5. Average of max. & min. 13.4, 56F

6. Anomaly -1.3

7. Highest/date 21.6, 71F 31st

8. Lowest/date 6.4, 43.5F 24th

9. Lowest grass/date 5, 45F 21st, 23rd, 24th

10. Mean 30cm soil depth 14.8, 58.5F


11. Days with rain falling 9

12. Total fall 51.5mm

13. Wettest day 35.6mm 25th


14. Mean relative humidity 9h 84%


15. Average at 9h 1014mb

16. Highest/date 1020mb 24th, 31st

17. Lowest/date 1007mb 26th


N 1, NE 0, E 1, SE 1, S 1, SW 1, W 2, NW 3, CALM 0


28th 1658 You may be surprised to learn that malaria was an endemic disease in parts of England, especially Cambridgeshire, Essex and Kent, in the 17th century. The name comes from "mal air", which was believed to cause it, in the marshy area between Rome and the Italian coast.

Apparently, the earliest reference to it in this country is by the Venerable Bede in the seventh century. In the seventeenth century it was known as the "harvest ague". It was mainly located wherever there are wetlands which provided the breeding grounds for the mosquito larvae. In 1848 and 1859 epidemics occurred when the summers were hot and wet. Since then malaria has been eliminated in this country as wetlands were drained, and the only cases now are the result of travellers picking the disease up in other countries before they return here.

Oliver Cromwell suffered from septicaemia with malaria –"the bastard tertian ague," suffering "burning fits of violence. It took him 16 days to die.

29th 1882 Two days of rain ensured that England lost the Test Match with Australia at the Oval. England went to pieces in the second innings, and for the first time an England side lost a Test Match. The Sporting Times ran the mocking obituary for England, "In Affectionate Remembrance of ENGLISH CRICKET ... The body will be cremated and the ashes taken to Australia." Hence the Ashes Test Matches.

For meteorologists and climatologists, this is the first day of autumn. The weather, however, can still be very summery with long sunny days and high temperatures – and there again it can be cool and rainy!

At least 30 Septembers have been as warm as June in the 20th century, but the nights are getting longer, so the overall temperature starts to drop, and fog and mist become more common, especially in low lying places.

In two weeks' time, the Arctic ice which has been thinning and melting since last May will start to refreeze as daylight hours decline to nothing by the autumn equinox on 21st September, at the North Pole.

1st 1906 Low pressure induced a southerly flow of air from the Sahara desert, forcing the temperature up to 34, 94F. It reached this temperature in Manchester where Manchester City were playing. The team lost five men to heat exhaustion, including Jimmy Conlan in his debut for City. He was only the second man to command a transfer fee of over £1000. Those were the days!

Bawtry in Yorkshire reached 35.6, 96F. The preceding summer had been hot and this resulted in the outbreak of many fires in the countryside as the tinder dry vegetation burst into flames.

2nd 1667 The Englishman Robert Hooke is often described as the father of modern science in the Age of Enlightenment. He was convinced that by recording and studying accurate daily observations of the weather, he would be able to deduce the laws of the weather – and perhaps successfully forecast it.

Up to this point in time, weather had been regarded as sent by divine providence – the worst being a punishment for mankind's sins!

He was a little ahead of his time, as really accurate scientific instruments were not available in the 17th century. Nevertheless, his methodology was sound, requiring the steady accumulation of empirical data, and its interpretation according to the known physical laws.

1875 Two armour plated Royal Navy vessels – "HMS Iron Duke", and "HMS Vanguard" – collided in thick fog off Wicklow Head, Ireland. The Vanguard sank in an hour – all hands being saved.

1972 Prime Minister Edward Heath (you remember, Grocer Heath who took us into the Common Market) lost his yacht "Morning Cloud 111", off Shoreham-by-Sea, Sussex when an 8 metre wave hit the vessel, washing two crew overboard.

3rd 1928 One of those many pioneering discoveries for which Great Britain was responsible – though rarely credited – is antibiotics. They have saved the lives of countless people over the last 70 years. The story is of an accidental occurrence which caused scientific deductions to be made.

The Scottish bacteriologist, Alexander Fleming, worked at St Mary's Hospital, London, and returned after a two week holiday. He was notoriously untidy, and left piles of culture dishes smeared with Staphylococcus bacteria lying around. He noticed that one of the dishes contained a greenish-yellow mould – derived from a spore blown in through the open windows. It was surrounded by a clear halo where bacteria had not grown. He deduced that the mould had released a chemical that was preventing the growth of the bacteria. Fleming named the chemical "penicillin".

It took a decade more before Howard Florey and Ernst Chain at Oxford isolated this chemical to enable its use. In 1941 a doctor used the available penicillin on a patient dying of septicaemia. He started to make a miraculous recovery. However, there was no more penicillin available, so he relapsed and died. By 1944 they had enough to use on the casualties at the D-Day landings, saving many from certain death.

Now the problem is the growing resistance to drugs derived from penicillin, due to their over-use and inappropriate use. Unless they are replaced we shall be back to the situation when many people died of bacterial infections, from the simplest of wounds.



A recent radio presentation by Dan Snow highlighted the burning of the White House by us in August 1813. I was surprised by the omission of the reason for this destruction. It was in retaliation for the burning, by the Americans, of Fort York, later to be called Toronto.

The Americans – ie, British settlers who rebelled against us 30 years earlier – declared war on us in 1812 for three main reasons.

1. They wanted to stop British support for the Native American First Nations, such as the Shawnees led by the great Tecumseh (Shooting Star), and his brother Tenskwata (the Prophet), whose homelands were viewed with envy by the Americans.

At the Treaty of Ghent, which ended this futile war, the conclusion was, status quo antebellum, return to pre-war position. Britain tried to persuade the Americans to establish Indian Territory and recognise their rights – the Americans refused.

The actions of the Americans during the rest of the 19th century, by swindling, lying, murdering, and ethnically cleansing the Native Americans, should be a source of shame for them.

2. They resented the efforts by the British to enforce a trade embargo on Napoleonic France, (and the impressment of their sailors into the Royal Navy), which the Americans tried to break.

The irony here is that the French provided financial aid to the rebellious Americans in the so-called War of Independence, to the extent that it bankrupted France and led to the French Revolution in 1789.

3. The Americans tried to annex Canada. In 2012 the Canadian Prime Minister issued a statement pointing out that had the rebellious Americans won the 1812 War, Canada would not exist.

Empire Loyalists

Canadians in those days were largely composed of those British settlers who were against the American War of Independence, and the French settlers in Quebec, who had been very generously treated by the British after the French, under General Montcalm, were defeated on the Heights of Abraham, at the Battle of Quebec in 1759, by General James Wolfe. They had no desire to be ruled by Americans.


I have the impression that the playground games played at school in my day have all but disappeared. Please correct me if I am wrong.

1. Jack Upon the Mopstick. Two teams of boys tossed a coin to see who would go first. One team lined up with heads between the legs of the boy in front, and one boy with his back against the wall, holding them all up. The other team had to jump as far forwards on top of the boys bent forwards, as possible with the object of making the first team collapse. It was a favourite game in Halesowen as many readers will recall. Nowadays, it might be banned to prevent broken backs!

2. Marbles. Every boy had to have a linen bag full of marbles. A chalk circle was drawn on the ground, and each player put a marble inside it. Every player had their "fobber", a marble of unusual brilliance and colour as well as being larger than the others. From an agreed distance, each player shot the fobber forwards from its position on the thumb. The object was to knock a marble or two out of the circle to keep. There were other ways marbles was played but this was our way.

3. Stick Tick. This was a version of the universal game of tick – only a small stick being thrown by whoever was "on", replaced the hand. This could be a very fast game and one of my favourites.

4. Rocket Arrows. I am not sure of the correct name for this dangerous activity, but I enjoyed it immensely. It was more of an individual activity than a team game. A suitable piece of wood was whittled into a streamlined short arrow. The tip was then sharpened, and flights made of feathers or cardboard were fitted into slots at the other end. The skill lay in fitting a piece of string with a knotted end looped around in such a way that it gave a tremendous impetus to the final part of the throw. The aim was to throw it as high and as far as possible – perhaps imitating a V2 Rocket.

5. Hopscotch. Strictly a girls' game, avoided like the plague by all the boys I knew. Don't ask me how it was played – it was one of those female secrets which remained a mystery to us, and still is!

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