A Rum Affair

I have been reading the new edition of A Rum Affair:  A True Story of Botanical Fraud, in which Karl Sabbagh recounts the story, originally based on an unpublished manuscript account held in the library of King’s College, Cambridge and now corroborated by a great deal of secondary evidence, of how John Raven, then a young Research Fellow at Trinity College, Cambridge, specialising in the Pre-Socratics, unmasked the fraudulent activities of John Heslop Harrison, Professor of Botany at Newcastle University, who was importing botanical species to the island of Rum and then reporting their discovery.   I read the first edition and can’t tell exactly how much material has been added to the second.   There is much discussion about what motivated Raven.   From what I remember of him (he was my uncle), he liked nothing better than puncturing pomposity.


3 thoughts on “A Rum Affair

  1. Martin Hopkinson says:

    This brings back memories of my parents talking about John Raven over 55 years ago . May be he was also on the governing body of King’s College Choir School where my father was the classics master in the 1950s, when I and my younger brother were also pupils there? I also knew of his connection with Trinity, where an earlier generation of scientific Hopkinsons were fellows. I wish that I had listened more. For I read Greats at Oxford. My parents talked about him more than any other Kings fellow other than the theologian Alec Vidler, as far as I remember. Possibly he was involved with my father’s appointment at the school. I wonder if he was part of the intellectual group at Hemingford Grey which included the architect and garden designer Peter Foster, designer of a fine garden for Lord de Ramsay at Abbots Ripton Hall and of at least one building at Kimbolton, as well as being Surveyor of Westminster Abbey. His wife Margaret was the daughter of a significant Norfolk architect , George Skipper. . Together with his close friend John Peters he ran the Vine Press. Their daughter Elizabeth was at school with me in St Ives.
    I think that the painter Elisabeth Vellacott and Lucy Boston, the author of children’s books were also part of this circle.Lucy Boston lived in the Manor, alleged to be one of the oldest continually inhabited houses in Britain.

  2. Joan says:

    For those of us with an interest in textiles Lucy Boston is known as much for her patchwork quilts as for her children’s books. There are numerous textile blogs which have featured visits to the Manor in order to see her needlework close up.

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