Fraud, Bankruptcy, Suicide and Transportation - The History of the London Underground
I managed to get to yesterday's lunchtime lecture by Stephen Halliday at Gresham College. Even though there were some signs around saying that both lecture rooms were full, I've never really taken too much notice of signs like that, and me and another girl decided to ignore them and stroll casually into a downstairs room. We hung around by the door of a pretty full room with no sign of a lecturer even though we could see the London Underground map being projected onto a screen and hear a scholarly sounding voice. It seemed to be the overflow room for the main lecture taking place upstairs, so we slid in and listened with everyone else.
I've not been to a lunchtime lecture for ages and should definitely go to more of them. This one was full of fairly elderly people who had made a special trip to hear Dr Halliday. He was a very knowledgeable and entertaining speaker.
As I predicted Charles Tyson Yerkes was one of the characters featured when bankruptcy was mentioned. However, he wasn't the only Tube "jail bird" (to quote Halliday) - Marc Brunel who built the Thames Tunnel served a jail sentence as did Whitaker Wright the financier behind the Baker Street and Waterloo Line. However, before he went to jail he managed to pop a cynide tablet into his mouth to top himself. Not only that but he had a loaded firearm in his pocket throughout his trial.
Stephen said that Ken Livingstone had many dealings with the High Court but as far as he knew had never bought a gun into court. "Ken Livingstone is a pussy cat compared to some of these characters" he said.
At some stage today the lecture will appear on Gresham College's website so if you have RealPlay you'd be able to see it for yourself - it's a good hour's worth of Tube history.
After the lecture finished I went into the main room and got Stephen to sign a copy of his book - Underground to Everywhere. Most people were buying the paperback version, but I had a well worn copy of the earlier hardback edition which he was happy to sign. I got a bit star struck and muttered what a fantastic lecture it was then hurried back to the Tube clutching my new prized possession.