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Letter to America: Beccles Gunslinger On:2022-10-29 10:02:40

My Dear Americans,
    I suspect that I am one of the very few people who have moved from Texas to the UK to learn all about guns. Of course I didn't do it TO learn, and it's certainly not All about them, but...

You see my home town of Beccles has a world renowned gunslinger, I mean gunSMITH (and I bet he's never ever gone around slinging guns, might hurt someone, or even worse hurt the gun).
His shop R Tilney & Son is on Smallgate in the centre of town and has been since before the Civil War1, and from almost my earliest youth I’ve passed it with intense curiosity tinged, I must admit, with considerable fear that acting on that curiosity might not be advisable.

Then I left Beccles for various points, mainly south and for University, Photography (not to mention Design) and eventually, for America.
Time passed, the millennia passed (Oh! OK only the one2) and, as you know by now, I retired, returned and eventually regurgitated that long lost curiosity, this time sans fear and plus age (if not maturity).
Georgia, as wives of the retired will in desperation do, endeavouring by any means to get me out of the house (not to mention her hair) chanced upon the Beccles Camera Club3, and on pain of not getting the new Nikon she dangled before me induced me to join. Gentle reader (I mean listener) the camera was mirror-less! And way complicated!!4
So I had no choice.
And now all things concatenated and degrees of freedom were whittled down to a nubbin. You see during the third meeting I attended, a competition was announced to (drum roll, please, and dramatic pause) to take a photo of something beginning with G.
I thought of (and rejected):
   •  Georgia (who would fairly certainly take it in quite the wrong way);
   •  Random Girls (ditto Georgia’s likely response, only more-so);
   •  Gastropods (far too slimy and sluggish, and probably couldn't sign a model
     release to save their lives.)
Then, then, in a flash of inspiration that would make the Big Bang look like a flash-in-the-pan, I remembered…
The very next day I took a walk down Smallgate, in the centre of town, and there, as it has been since at least 1860 was R Tilney & Son, Gunsmiths (with a G), so I fearlessly entered whilst coining the phrase "long-time passer-by, first-time caller"5 and met Mr Tilney, whom I can only think of in dynastic terms: Robert son of Lindsay, son of Harry, son of Robert.

Hmmmm, Robert, great-grandson of Robert? Now that could be an interesting reversal of the time traveller's Grandfather paradox6. Anyway.
The only really gunslingery thing about Robert is his moustache, which would’ve stood him in good stead in the gun fight at the OK Corral or the one at the Top-Notch Corral, or even the one at the Meh Corral. It made my moustache whimper quietly and crawl off into a corner of my face to hide.
His workshop is incredible, and fully justified my youthful and considerable fear.
It has the most guns I’ve seen in one place since we visited the Texas Rangers Museum7, in Waco.

I’m not really a gun person, I think I’ve only handled one once, while presenting at a conference in Palm Desert, CA when they took the presenters to a restaurant with a no tie policy (apparently enforced with a pair of scissors) and various dude-ranchy activities, including a quick draw competition. These guns weren't loaded, or possibly even real, which was a good thing for my foot and my survival as I was lousy at it.

Robert (son of etc, etc) who apart from being a Master Gunsmith is a Law Society Expert Witness on Firearms and Ballistics AND one of the Antiques Roadshow expert presenters8 (whence the fame) gave me a fascinating account of British shooting history, but since I had come primarily for a photo I'll only mention the bit that ended up as my entry. He showed me a flintlock by Wogden9 made in 177510 and demonstrated the flint sparking. That was to be my photo and it took quite a number attempts (as he said, "I've got plenty of flint and time") but I got it! I wonder how it'll do at the next meeting?

Kindest regards,
Richard Howland-Bolton
and, of course,
Cheerio for now
from me!


1 I mean yours
   American Civil War, 1861–1865
not ours, among which are
   Despenser War, 1321–1322
   Wars of the Roses, 1455–1485
   First English Civil War, 1642–1646
   Second English Civil War, 1648–1649
   Third English Civil War, 1650–16521a

2 Well the most significant figure changing is a big deal.

3 Beccles Camera Club

4 Drool!

5 Not to be confused with he phrase "long-time listener, first-time caller", mine is completely original.

6 Grandfather paradox

7 Texas Rangers Museum

8 Antiques Roadshow

9 Wogdon & Barton

10  Yup, it's one year older than America!

1a a.k.a. the Anglo-Scottish war of 1650–1652

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