Bert Temple and the Fittleworth Vat
The Sporting Times reported that Bert's own local was the Swan Inn, Fittleworth, Surrey, just south of Godalming. Accordingly I got in touch with the present owner, Paul Warriner, who said that the Inn had on display a visitors book dating back over 100 years. As I had to drive my wife to London one day in July, and had a few hours to spare, I took the opportunity to visit the Swan. Although the landlord was not there the books were. I found two visits by the 'inner circle' of the A.O.F.B. recorded - a fishing trip and one of the annual dances (which was followed the next day with more fishing).
The first A.O.F.B. dance at Vat No. 0 was held in December of 1926.
'The Swan Hotel, Fittleworth, a quaint old hostelry of 500 years' existence, was the scene of A.O.F.B. festivities on Saturday, December 11th. On giving the password "Ask Oliver For Beer", Tornado Oliver, host of the Inn, welcomed over 90 A.O.F.B. dancers. Bert Temple No. 0 was the first to ask for beer, and also led the dancing with Miss Miller (the fair hostess and senior Fairy Belle). Brighton, Chichester, Petersfield, Bognor and Horsham rallied in Rolls Royce and Ford van, a happier meeting of A.O.F.B.'s has not yet occurred. For a village of 600 souls, the amount raised was marvelous. Twenty-two pounds goes to the Wee Waifs' Fund. Tornado Oliver paid all expenses himself, and provided a sumptuous spread for the Belles and Blowers, for which charitable action he is to be congratulated.'
The fishing trip was from the 28th March to the 2nd April in 1927 the guestbook entry reading :
Arrived "All out", Anaemic, Anxious
Fittleworth Fare, Feast Furnished, Frequent Fuel, Foaming FROTH, (and Fines For Fripp)
Blowers Better, Breathing Blessings, Bodies Buoyant, Brighter Brains. ( Bravo Bert ).
This is the only entry for the 5 night stay, so perhaps it was merely a drinking trip.
Another dance was held on February the 3rd, 1928 - by which time the Inn is one hundred years older.
'A six hundred year old inn, replete with the most wonderful beams, a swinging sign across the main road of a pretty little village, full of rustic beauty - and there you have the setting for the Swan Inn , Fittleworth, Sussex (Host : Monsoon H. Thorp Oliver), which is Bert Temple's very own "No. 0" personal Vat.
Last week-end the village was all agog with excitement, for on Friday evening an A.O.F.B. dance was the great event, and Bert Temple had bought with him Cloudburst Jack Haes, Grand Hurricane David Cain, Gentle Zephyr Dorothy Roper, Welcome Breeze Gladys Roper, the E.D.C. (Enforcer of Dud Cheques), Grand Typhoon and Almoner H. Stewart Turner, Grand Overseas Scrounger Fred Pocock, Monsoon Mrs. Madeleine Corbett, Tornado Mrs. Lolette Cain, Tornado Mrs. Rogerson and lots of other enthusiasts to trip the light fantastic.'
That night £35 4s 0d was raised for children's charities, two thirds of which - £23 9s 4d - was reserved for disbursement locally. The next day in "hurricane" weather, Monsoon Oliver and No. 0 went fishing and returned with a 14lb pike *, putting to shame Grand Typhoon Hope's 5 ponder ('whitebait' according to Bert) . However, ' a fine for the oast box is certain to be the final verdict!'
David L Woodhead February 2005
* Newspaper cuttings of the day report.
' On Saturday morning in real "hurricane" weather, Bert Temple, The Grand Hurricane - looking much like an advertisement for Angus Watson's Skippers - and Monsoon Oliver went fishing and returned with a fine specimen pike that easily tipped the scales at the 14lb mark. Although Monsoon Oliver is believed to have caught it while No. 0 and the G.H. were imbibing hot coffee and grog, the two latter claim credit for snaffing and landing.'
Most Mysterious "Catch"
'Soon after the catch was triumphantly carried back to the Swan, Grand Typhoon Perry Hope, who had arrived at Fittleworth with a number of ladies of the party and a five pound pike, although quaintly enough his rod and line were as dry as a bone! How he hooked the fish, which as it laid beside the 14 pounder, was disdainfully referred to by No.0 as a specimen whitebait, is a matter which is still being investigated.'
Veracity at a Discount
' The evidence so far sifted seems to suggest that a Grand Typhoon of the Order has made use of the proverbial license taken by anglers in the matter of veracity and subterfuge. Other members of the Order who are devotees of the rod and line are invited to assist in solving the mystery, but a fine for the Oast Box is certain to be the final verdict !'
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