From the Darlington & Stockton Times of…

January 26, 1918

CAPTAIN Evelyn Horace Guy Sharples, 19, the only surviving son of the vicar of Finghall, near Leyburn, was killed when his bi-plane disintegrated mid-air during acrobatics training.

Capt Sharples had joined the Royal Flying Corps on his 18th birthday, and had been promoted to the rank of captain in August 1917 after seven successful months flying in France.

On Saturday, January 19, 1918, near Biggin Hill in Kent, Capt Sharples had taken his SE5a bi-plane through “several evolutions” – loop the loops – which he had “performed solely for training purposes and not in any way for amusement”, said the D&S Times.

He levelled out at about 4,000ft “when suddenly his machine banked to the left and started spinning nose downwards. It then flattened out, and the wings collapsed upwards”, said the D&S. “The machine fell and crashed down upon some houses, piercing the roofs of two of them.”

His body was brought home to be buried in the churchyard on the Wednesday, in a service conducted by his uncle, the Reverend Ernest Orde Powlett, the rector of Wensley.

“The coffin was borne to the graveside by officers of the RFC and after the committal sentences had been said, three volleys were fired over the grave by men of the RFC after which the Last Post was sounded,” reported the D&S of the funeral that was attended by all the leading figures in the dale.

It also said that the other son of the Reverend Henry Sharples and his wife, Sub-Lt Henry Sharples, had been aboard HMS Hampshire when it sank off the Orkneys in June 1916 when carrying Lord Kitchener, the Secretary of State for War.

In the column beside the report of the tragedy, the D&S told how the Wensleydale Longwool Sheepbreeeders’ Association had held its annual meeting in the Bolton Arms, Leyburn.

“After the members had partaken in a meatless dinner, for the first time,” reported the D&S, members “unanimously passed a motion that the price of wool should be increased by 25 per cent”.

The Association, founded in 1891, still thrives, but the report shows how dire the situation was becoming on the home front. The D&S also said: “The meat shortage in Ripon is rapidly becoming very acute, and the majority of the butchers’ shops are closed for the first three days of the week, while the demand on Thursday and Saturday is so great that the supply is inadequate.”

The many military camps in North Yorkshire were buying up all the meat for the soldiers. “Last weekend many families were without meat altogether,” said the D&S.

January 27, 1968

EYES were down 50 years ago for a big controversy in Richmond where local fairground proprietor John Murphy had applied for permission to convert a landmark building into the town’s first bingo hall.

Among the objectors were the 29 headteachers of Swaledale schools. Bingo, they said, was “contrary to the spiritual and moral values which our schools stand for, and will constitute in a variety of ways a pervasive moral dangerous to our impressionable young people”.

In a letter to the town council, they said: “Furthermore, such places encourage undesirable elements to gather together.

“It would be a very great aesthetic and human blemish on the central part of our historic town. Its sight, its noise and the tone of its activity would debase the standard of the area.”

The game was going to be played in the former co-op building on the corner of Finkle Street and Rosemary Lane.

Cllr J Gavin said: “This is typical cheap-jack entertainment and we don’t want it in Richmond.”

The town council agreed to register their objections to bingo in the strongest possible terms.

January 25, 1868

IN December, Looking Back told the extraordinary story from 150 years ago of how eight people, including two city elders, had been blown up in Newcastle trying to dispose of nitro-glycerine on the town moor.

There seems to have been a health and safety mania about the explosive, used in the mining industry, as it had been discovered that it becomes increasingly unstable as it ages.

Fremington Mining Company had had some in a store for three years, but the D&S reported how three members of the Dolphin family accompanied by James Calvert and Sgt Southwick had carried it to the top of Mount Calva – called Calver Hill on today’s Ordnance Survey maps, it rises to 1,599ft above Reeth.

“Sgt Southwick then went round the mountain to see all was out of danger,” reported the D&S. “On giving the signal, Mr JM Dolphin set fire to the nitro-glycerine shavings at about twenty minutes to three o’clock, and about three a terrific explosion took place.

“As the fact that the glycerine was to be destroyed was not publicly known, great excitement prevailed in Reeth and surrounding villages. Some thought the Fenians had made their appearance on Calva.

“The report was heard many miles distant, and a great many houses felt the shock. Earth and stones were thrown in all directions for upwards of 200 yards from where the explosion took place. It afforded a splendid sight to those who witnessed it.”

In September, Looking Back told how an exhibition at Kiplin Hall was celebrating the 200th anniversary of the wedding of Sarah Crowe, the Countess of Tyrconnell, the heiress of the hall.

In this week 150 years ago, the D&S told how the Countess had died at the hall, aged 78, and would be buried in the nearby Bolton-on-Swale church.

It told how she had devoted herself to “charity and benevolence”.

“She educated and clothed up to the time of her death 24 children for two years each,” it said. “The children were selected from the school at Bolton-on Swale, and on the expiration of the two years allotted to them, their numbers were filled up by others chosen from the same school.”

The D&S concluded: “Lady Tyrconnell was much respected by all who came in contract with her, and the poor especially have reason to regret her loss.”

BLOB If you have anything to add to any of the topics in today’s Looking Back, please email

A FORTNIGHT ago, the D&S told how 250 years ago, Captain James |Cook sailed on his first voyage of discovery in the Endeavour with his mate, Richard Pickersgill, who hailed from North Yorkshire.

But there was at least one other local sailor on board that historic voyage, and it left him with the most amazing claim to fame.

It was to be a voyage that changed our perceptions of the world. Capt Cook's crew became the first westerners to see the east coast of Australia and only the second to discover New Zealand. They were the first to see kangaroos and surfing; their mathematical observations helped to create the system of longitude.

And Able Seaman Robert Stainsby, from Darlington, became the first westerner to get a tattoo.

What an incredible – and indelible – claim to fame!

Stainsby was born in 1741, the third child of William and Hanna, of Darlington. He was one of the first to join Cook’s crew, suggesting that he had some sea-going experience before.

The HM Bark Endeavour sailed from Plymouth on August 26, 1768, carrying 94 people, and it reached Tahiti on April 13, 1769. They waited to observe the transit of Venus across the face of the Sun, to help with the refinement of longitude.

They also observed the island natives.

In July 1769, Capt Cook wrote in his journal: “Both sexes paint their bodys Tattow as it is called in their language, this is done by inlaying the Colour of black under their skins in such a manner as to be indelible.”

He said the black oil, collected by burning the candlenut, was pricked into the skin by instruments made from thin pieces of bone or shell.

“One end is cut into sharp teeth and the other fasten’d to a handle; the teeth are diped into the black liquor and then drove by quick sharp blows struck upon the handle with a stick for that purpose into the skin so deep that every stroke is followed (with) a small quantity of blood. The part so marked remains sore for some days before it heals.”

He concludes: “As this is a painfull operation especially the tattowing their buttocks it is perform’d but once in their life time, it is never done until they are 12 or 14 years of age.”

The peoples covered in swirls and stars, and the painful process, obviously intrigued the British sailors. It intrigued them so much that a small party plucked up courage to give it a go.

Sydney Parkinson, a Scottish botanical illustrator, wrote in his diary on July 13, 1769: “Mr Stainsby, myself, and some others of our company, underwent the operation, and had our arms marked.”

And so an inky link can be traced from the tattooed torsos of Premiership footballers right back to the arms of a Darlingtonian 249 years ago who started the craze.

Is it too much to hope that there is still a Stainsby in the area who is descended from the first tattooed man?

n With thanks to Philip Sedgwick