Podcast episode 7: “An Anniversary (Maxwell Knight’s) and an Armchair Assessment”

Simon, John and Margaret’s theme for today’s podcast is “An Anniversary and An Armchair Assessment” and marked the fact that the 9th of July (when the podcast was recorded), is the date of birth of Maxwell Knight whom the FFON Maxwell Knight website is named. John and Margaret – who knew Maxwell Knight – share their memories about him as a person and his influence on a whole generation of naturalists.

Maxwell Knight and The Frightened Face of Nature (FFON)

But first, the FFON team talk about taking walks, the ever-changing natural world and John has a few things to say about the word ‘succession’ and ‘legacy’, insects and flowers plus the growing importance of photography (Margaret announces she has a surprise to share later in the broadcast).

Simon shares a brief assessment of what the FFON team have covered since the very first podcast on the 9th of April 2020 – all of which can be listened to here.

The podcast team agree to take a half-term break and promise to return in September IF enough people miss the podcasts. If not, they might return anyway…

As usual, Margaret has been busy collecting feedback and messages… and shares an interesting tale about a snake: here’s the YouTube video / link to the spitting cobra mentioned in the podcast:

Spitting cobra.

John’s memories of Maxwell Knights starts with a mention of Wikipedia and he changes the order and sequence of how Maxwell Knight is described – believing he was first and foremost a ‘naturalist.’

Margaret shares her memories of Maxwell Knight and shares the story behind naming their son ‘Max.’

Simon explains how his Maxwell Knight story started on October 2014 and how it took a unique turn in 2015 when he broke into his (Knight’s) personal filing cabinet! You can read more about that here. He also mentions how Maxwell Knight took clarinet lessons from Sidney Bechet:

Sidney Bechet

All three discuss the Maxwell Knight Symposium and John Cooper’s can be read in full here, and Simon King’s here.

Read Simon King’s ‘Spectre of Destruction‘ on The Guardian’s website.

Read MI5’s account of Maxwell Knight here.

MI5’s leading agent-runner, Maxwell Knight (later a well-known BBC naturalist) also had considerable success in penetrating British fascist movements. MI5 was hampered, however, by the unwillingness of successive pre-war Home Secretaries to sign a Home Office Warrant (HOW) for the interception of the communications of Sir Oswald Mosley, leader of the British Union of Fascists, apparently because of the belief that he was, at root, a sincere patriot who posed no threat to national security—despite the fact that he married his second wife at a private ceremony in Goebbels’s drawing room, attended by Hitler.

source: https://www.mi5.gov.uk/the-inter-war-years

Take-home messages: John discussed ‘succession’ in more detail and the legacy of Maxwell Knight including his reputation and his Young Naturalists’ Library at the NHM. Margaret’s take-home message was to encourage all of us to – as we return to ‘normal’ – after COVID-19 – not to give up on natural history… to slow down on your walks… and to Pause and Ponder!

Thanks to all who’ve listened to The Armchair Naturalists Podcast from the FFON team. We hope to assemble again in September.

In the meantime, keep safe

Simon, John and Margaret – FFON.

Recorded 9th July 2020 at 19.00.

Podcast edited by Edward King.