Monday, 9 December 2013

E, F and G are for Edwin Fermor-Garboldisham

Field-Marshall Sir Edwin Fermor-Garboldisham was a very odd man even by the standards of his eccentric and fascinating age. An exemplary soldier and veteran of all four Anglo-Ashanti wars, he was in his long life to see off three mutinies, two wives and the attentions of the sensational novelist Florence Marryat - who immortalised him as 'Alan' in her first book "Love's Conflict". 

He also invented the Christmas tree fairy.

Like his near contemporary Henry Evelyn Wood, Fermor-Garboldisham had a passion for airedale terriers and a fervent religious faith. During the Siege of Sevastopol in 1854 he was to lose both spectacularly when an enormous crucifix fell from the bell tower of a Byzantine church and crushed his much loved dog, Edward, as well as several sepoys (whose names are forgotten to us). The loss was incalculable and he never owned a hound again. 

On his return to England, the grieving Field Marshall grew closer to the increasingly deranged Marryat, who somehow managed to convince him that fairies were real, long before such nonsense was to become fashionable. Against the advice of friends Sir Edwin embarked on a long quest to prove that "fairy folk" did indeed exist, taking out a full page advertisement in The Times in which he promised to pay a farthing per unsubstantiated sighting. He was declared bankrupt the next year and following a long and complicated lawsuit over the intellectual rights to Tinkerbell, he retired to the village of Paxford in the Cotswolds, from where he penned misspelt hate mail to JM Barrie, while plotting his revenge.

Unfortunately it was not to be. A plan to mass produce paper fairies to use as bait was the last straw financially and the bailiffs were called in. The Field Marshall died in disgrace of second degree gout and the planned statue to him that would have graced the fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square was never cast.

Fermor-Garboldisham's debtors immediately seized his only asset and sold the fairies as  'traditional Christmas tree decorations' to members of the newly emerging 'middle' class who took to them immediately and have foolishly placed them atop their trees ever since.

To the chagrin of all.

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