You don’t have to be a mathematician to work out it’s the division sign. And it might well have been missing completely if it hadn’t been for John Pell, (1611-1685), who coincidentally was rector at St. Nicholas Church from 1663. I suppose that until he came up with the symbol, mathematicians managed to show division by putting numbers above and below a horizontal line, e.g. 1/2.
But I’m not sure if Pell did society a favour, as I’m embarrassed to say it came as quite a revelation to me that 1/2, which I thought of as a ‘half’, more meaningfully means one divided by two. Looking back, I don’t know why I was confused as it’s pretty obvious but then I’ve never claimed to be a mathematical genius and I feel that Pell is partially responsible, with his division sign. Why do you need two ways of expressing the same thing? I guess you have to be a mathematician to answer that one or at least have greater mathematical skills than me, (which really isn’t hard.) So, why am I mentioning John Pell? Does he appear in ‘Daffodil and the Thin Place’?
Well, no, he doesn’t.
I could pretend that his lack of presence in the book was just retribution for imposing his division sign on an unsuspecting public, especially me, but the truth is, he was born two centuries too early. However, that doesn’t rule him out of appearing in a future book, as I have a sneaking suspicion that Daffodil may one day find herself stepping back through the Veil and I feel she may be just the person to give John Pell a piece of her mind.
Another John, who was associated with St. Nicholas Church, was John Puckle, who incidentally, also didn’t appear in ‘Daffodil and the Thin Place’. However, things would have turned out very differently for Daffodil if the very charitable Mr. Puckle hadn’t been so generous. Here’s a piece about him, from the St. Nicholas Church website, which can be seen here
“We are not quite sure when the Priest House started to be used as a School House. It was, however, probably in the early 1600s following the death of a local farmer John Puckle in 1617. In his will, Puckle left his farm (approximately 62 acres) to the church for the maintenance of a schoolmaster for teaching the poor children of Laindon and Basildon. The schoolmaster is to have graduated from Cambridge or Oxford and to be no rector or curate or under any ecclesiastical parson whatsoever.
The farmhouse stood opposite Benson’s farm in Wash Road in the area that is now Noak Bridge estate. The farm was sold in the late 1800s and proceeds of the sale were invested. The charity known as the ‘Puckles Charity’ is still in existence today and the small amount of interest received from the invested sum is now made available for local schools to purchase equipment etc.”
That was a very generous, thoughtful and caring act and I have always been impressed that ‘poor children of Laindon and Basildon’ included girls as well as boys. Good on you, Mr. Puckle!
It’s a James, this time that I want to tell you about and if you live anywhere near Laindon or Basildon, you will have heard of the last schoolmaster who taught in Puckle’s Charity School. It was, of course, James Hornsby, who much later gave his name to the James Hornsby High School, which is not far from St. Nicholas Church. It was he, who prepared the ‘poor children of Laindon and Basildon’ for adulthood, teaching them the 3 R’s and religious instruction. And furthermore, he did have a part in ‘Daffodil and the Thin Place’! He was the schoolmaster who ran the school when Daffodil found herself in the Victorian times. More about him in another post…
But in the meantime, if you want to read more about Daffodil, you can find out here