Bromley Libraries

Eagle of the Ninth

May 20, 2020 Bromley Libraries Season 1 Episode 9
Bromley Libraries
Eagle of the Ninth
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

A story of plague, debauchery, death, double cross, spies.... and empathy of everyday folk and all found with Bromley Libraries Electronic Resources

Empathy Lab
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The Eagle of the Ninth 


Hi welcome to our Ninth podcast… 


Today we look at a similar time in the 1300’s and how they managed to keep themselves entertained in Italy during the plague lockdown and also to see how London had learned in the intervening 300 years to survive the Great Plague of the 1600’s 


The subtle art of the double cross as practiced in the 2nd World War is followed up from our VE Day podcast and with a review of the excellent book Double Cross and we quickly delve into NewsBank to find an article about Ewen Montagu getting his final wish to see the official written history of Operation Mincemeat  


And we look at the excellent resource CareerActive which takes you through all aspects of getting and developing a job or career including catching up with your old mates… 


Oh and whatever ever did happen to the Eagle of the Ninth – perhaps we’ll find out? 



As I’ve said before – Bromley Libraries are still closed, but don’t worry about expiring library books. Any books and cd’s taken out this year will automatically renewed to well beyond the date we eventually open at. And any DVD’s taken out from 20th March will be renewed as well and no rental charged. 


Any updates on opening of library services will be posted on the library websites and of course this podcast. 


According to June’s BBC History there were 5 steps to avoid the plague in the 17th Century. Consign yourself to quarantine is something we can all relate to, although the need to self isolate because someone had it was a little more drastic and that was to daub a red cross on your door and add a note asking the Lord to have mercy is not nearly as nice as having a rainbow drawn by your 3 year old stuck on the window.  

Steer clear of filth and dung is always sound advice in my book. Banning hogs, dogs, cats and tame pigeons was a bit harsh 

Fumigating your clothes with smoke or perfumes was, in retrospect, thought to be more sound.  

Burying the dead at night, given the numbers killed by the plague was sound advice. Particularly as it deterred large gatherings and reduced the impact on morale – although sometimes the night hours weren’t long enough… 

Taking the moral high ground such as avoiding bear baiting, watching plays, and the singing of ballads which were banned due to the multitude of rogues and wandering beggars that swarm in every place about the city. So the same as now  - No Motorhead gigs… 


It was a bit different in Boccaccio’s time during the Black Death in the 13 hundreds. He writes about 10 of Florence’s wealthy merchant class leaving Florence for the country to live in decadence and debauchery for 10 days, each of  telling one story a day – making 100 stories in the Decameron. Kevin Childs article in the Independent’s Monday’s 18th May  paper, copies to be found in both NewsBank and Press Reader, highlights this well known but somewhat baudy tale and promotes the new podcast Passion and the Plague which looks at the stories over ten episodes. It may be worth a listen, but when the kids are in bed… 


I mentioned Ben McIntyre’s Operation Mincemeat in our VE Day Special the other week and noticed that some of McIntyre’s books were in uLibrary. So I took a listen to Double Cross which followed the whole British double cross spy operation leading up to the D Day operation. I’m still listening to it, it’s fascinating. Apparently for all their organisational skills, the Nazi’s UK spying operation was actually being almost exclusively by MI5, fed by turned Nazi agents and many fictitious spy networks made up by a disgruntled Spaniard with a vivid imagination and eloquent prose.  

In fact he spent the first year or so being paid by the Germans for reports he’d made up while living in Portugal. The British originally ignoring his almost weekly visit to their consulate trying to volunteer his services. Absolutely fascinating stuff. 


Ewan Montagu – the main organiser of Operation Mincemeat, author of the book “The Man Who Never Was” on which the film I watched on VE Day, nearly never saw the story panned out in British Official History.  

In an article I found on NewsBank taken from the Times on 29th December 2017, Montagu was months away from his death when he wrote a begging letter to the official history writer on strategic deception Professor Michael Howard. Apparently although so much was known unofficially – officially it was still seen as an official secret and not published. 

Professor Howard put his case to Sir Robert Armstrong in 1984 who then put it Margaret Thatcher asking her to release the typescript of the official history to Montagu who saw it before he died that year. He still couldn’t understand why it hadn’t been published and Prof Howard’s official history was released in 1987.  


I would have loved to been an agent. I was looking at our CareerActive for any advice on a career as a spy, but unfortunately it didn’t give me any contacts in Whitehall back room offices… however it did give me a lot of very useful stuff. The e-Learning section not only gives you basic hints on how to create a CV – but how to make that CV look good and stand out on a mobile phone as many employers and HR managers look at applications on their phones. It gives advice on how to use things such as LinkedIn for more than just a job finding tool, but to find out the people most influential in your field and how you can get noticed yourself both as someone who is looking to develop but also to be an innovator within that sector yourself. Even such things as evaluating your self worth, developing skills to communicate and suggestions of skills to get you further up the ladder in your current post and to plan your chosen career. It acts as a repository for your career so far to help you with your next move. 

It’s a bit late for yours truly… well into the autumn years of his working life. I did look for a job in a career I do know about to see what was out there. I typed in branch librarian  and found one in the arena of my previous career as NHS Librarian…I had to apply to a former colleague of mine, Rachel, if I wanted the job. It needs a keen just qualified librarian and not a cynical old codger like me. Anyway it was a great reminder of a colleague who I enjoyed working with so it was a good excuse to drop her an email.. without the job application attached. 


CareerActive requires to submit your library card number, your name, email and a password and you’re straight in. I would have loved this 20 years ago… 

Just quickly before we go. Empathy Day is on June 9th and we are promoting empathy in these uncertain times through linking to Empathy Lab’s Family Activity pack. I’ll put a link to it on the podcast website or just do a google search. There are downloadable activities which are designed to be as inclusive as possible. Something to add to your home schooling armoury. 

Empathy read alouds by 11 authors and exclusive Empathy shorts will be available plus librarians will highlight their favourite empathy books on CILP’s National Shelf Service YouTube site 


Anyway that brings us to the end of another podcast. 


I was a disappointed not to get nominated for a Great British Podcast award. That was a waste of a day creating 250 anonymous emails to nominate Bromley Libraries Podcast. Perhaps we’re just a little too recent to be noticed, Next Year Folks, Next Year! 


Don’t forget to go our Better Libraries websites to gain access to all our great online resources – for study, pleasure, research or just read around the subject using something other than Google. Listen to those books while knitting or sitting in the garden. You might listen to Rosemary Sutcliff’s The Eagle of the Ninth on Libby, so you might discover what happened to the Eagle of the Ninth... Oh and listen to more podcasts… Keep safe and healthy. See you soon.