Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Percy the Town Hall keeper was a genuine hero!

I scraped the ice off my window screen this morning wrapped up in a warm overcoat and a heavy tweed suit I still felt I was ill prepared for the weather. 

At lunch time I entered the Mayor's Parlour to attend the unveiling of a Blue Plaque (possibly the only one in Southport) to commemorate F J Hooper -Percy to his friends. Percy was the Town Hall Keeper from 1922-1955 only breaking his service to serve in the armed forces. 

He joined Scott's expedition to the South Pole (as the youngest member) as a steward but soon became part of the Shore Party.  Scott reached the Pole on 17 January and so today was an appropriate day for the ceremony. Hooper was one of the team that found Scott's body. On show in the Town Hall were items that belonged to Hooper from the expedition. Apparently these turned up in the Botanic Museum and included a cotton shock-it certainly would not have kept him warm-the lowest recorded tempreture on the expedition was -39 F. He tracked miles across the Antarctic landscape pulling eye watering  weights of supplies. He was awarded the Polar Medal from the King.

He gave his address at The Mayor's Parlour, Lord St. although he actually lived in a flat above the Atkinson Library at 1a Eastbank Street. He was not Southport's only link with Scott's ill fated exhibition. The photographer Pontin signed on the Terra Nova giving his address as Argyle Rd Southport. 
This picture is believed to have been taken after he found Scott's body

The second picture shows Sefton's Mayor with Hooper's biographer Joan Smith who has led the campaign to have the Blue Plaque erected on the Town Hall outside the Mayor's Parlour where Hooper worked. Joan Smith has her own connection with the town her father and grandfather were managers of Boots the Chemist in Lord St.

We should add that Hooper was a great supporter of Southport FC

Hooper was also a character in the famous Ealing Film for which Ralph Vaughan Williams wrote the music

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