Spreading the Word
Since I put this page up on the WEB site at the end of 1998, I have been contacted by various people interested in Harry's story. His story has also made it into various papers and magazines and also onto radio. Here is list of many of the contacts that we have received, and articles that have been published or broadcast that I have been made aware of:
- The 1975 edition of Reader's Digest book of Interesting Facts contains the first reference to Harry's story that I am aware of.
- David Klawans, a student from Los Angeles came across Harry's story in January 1999, in a magazine called Fortean Times. David wanted to write a school report about the journey. His investigations also found an obituary to Harry in the New York Times. We exchanged information.
- Andrew Mosby, a journalist writing for Time Out in London and other publications, contacted us in March 1999, as he was interested in writing an article (the Daily Mail were interested) about Harry. David first discovered a brief paragraph about Harry's story in Steve Wright's Book of the Amazing but True. He then found a mention in a pamphlet by Reader's Digest called Great British Eccentrics, and an article from the Sydney Morning Herald from 30/07/1998. Andrew also tried the British library, Reader's Digest and the current Lord Lonsdale, but none were able to assist any further. Andrew completed a light-hearted article in Time Out magazine in April. It compared Harry's adventure to that of Richard Branson's attempt to circumnavigate the Earth in his balloon.
- Oliver Driscoll was kind enough in March 1999, to supply us with an obituary he found to Harry, in a box of old papers that he had just bought. The obituary was in the The Sunday Dispatch dated 27th May 1956 (a week after Harry's death).
- Oliver Bone, the curator of the Ancient House Museum, Thetford (Thetford is Harry's birth place), was doing some research of famous people from the town, when he came across Harry's story. Oliver was responsible for getting the story into the two daily papers and The Sunday Mail in August 1999. This publicity also caused the story to be covered by BBC Radio 2 on the John Dunn show, when John did and interview with Oliver about Harry's story.
- Kelly Egan, a journalist with the Ottawa Citizen paper in Canada, found Harry's story briefly written up by Geoffrey Corfield in a Canadian historical magazine called The Beaver, and wanted to find more information so that he could write his own article. I gave Kelly a short interview and sent original versions of the photographs, and he produced an article on 14th August 1999. (Got my name in the papers again, even if it was the other side of the Atlantic!). Click here for a transcript. Kelly's article was picked up by The Edmonton Journal (another Canadian paper in Edmonton, Alberta, western Canada) which then led to Mr. Corfield giving an interview to an Alberta radio station.
- Geoffrey Corfield also published another article in the London Free Press on the 15th October 2000, entitled Walk this way, which mentions a few unusual walkers of the time, but concentrates on Harry's story.
- In late 2000, author and researcher Tahir Shah contacted me about his research into Harry's story, and we exchanged several emails on the subject. Tahir was able to find some documentation about Harry's life which was mostly about his criminal activities(!), but was unable to discover more about the journey.
- Chris McKnight found an article in his local paper, Daily Echo dated July 24, 2000. The photograph from this can be seen on the Gallery page.
- The Radio Drama section of the BBC broadcast a play about Harry's story on BBC Radio 4 at 2.30pm on Saturday 23rd November 2000. Entitled: 'Mr Bensley's Pram', by Dylan Ritson, James Purefoy played Harry Bensley, and he recorded the play wearing the helmet that was specially made for him for the film A Knight's Tale. The hour long play was part fact, part fiction, and I was amused to notice much of the factual information was almost certainly taken this very web site. I tried, in vein, at the time to contact Dylan Ritson, to see where he had obtained any of his other information, as I'm sure that he and the BBC would have access to far more experienced researchers than myself.
- Ivan Howlett's BBC Radio 4's "Making History" programme included an item about Harry's story on Tuesday 26th November 2000 at 3:00pm. The programme featured Oliver Bone (curator of Thetford Museum) and David Craze, the Mayor of Wivenhoe.
- Geoff Amos was the landlord of the Three Pigeons pub in Halifax, where he hung a large framed photograph of a man wearing a helmet pushing a pram. He had bought the picture in Halifax, but knew nothing of the characters it depicted. So he was amased to be listening to the radio one Saturday evening in November 2002, to hear that a play about such a man was about to be broadcast. Having more information on the subject, Geoff found my web site and he contacted me. Geoff sold the pub in 2005, but still kept the picture.
I had not been aware of a broadcast in 2002, but guess it was a re-run of the 'Mr, Bensley's Pram' play first aired in November 2000.
- Jackie Cosh, a freelance writer in Scotland, had an article published in the September 2004 issue of the Norfolk Journal, which used this site as one of her references for her work. Many thanks to Jackie for mentioning me by name, and for including a link to this site within the article. Jackie kindly sent me a draft of her article which can be found here.
- In October 2004, author Jean Hood emailed me as she was researching information about Trafalgar Square for a second book on the subject, having discovered that Harry's journey started there. Jean contacted me again in January 2005 to say Harry's story would be included in the book, to come out later that year. She kindly included an acknowledgement to this web site in her references section.
- In August 2007, Troy Bailey from Time Out Guides contacted me for information and images to go into the 2008 edition of their publication. I was happy to assist.
- My mother and myself were invited to visit Ivan Howlett at his lovely home in Suffolk early December 2007, where he was preparing for both a newspaper item for the Suffolk Daily Times and also an item to be presented on BBC Radio 4's "Making History" programme. Ivan used to present and produce the programme for many years and was involved when my mother was interviewed by Sue Cooke in a follow-up article to Harry's story back in 2002. Because 1st January 2008 is the centenary of the start of Harry's journey, Ivan was keen to mark the occasion in both the papers and on radio. Ivan could not have been more welcoming and friendly for our visit, as were his family who came and went during our day at their home. He had also arranged a photographer from the papers and did an interview with the both of us. I'm afraid we both seemed overwhelmed whenever a microphone was pointed in our directions and I found that it seem to disconnect my brain from my mouth and I often struggled to speak with any sense! But Ivan very professionally kept up his interview skills which have obviously been honed over many years, and in the end he was sure he had enough to use in his programme. In reality, that meant he had a lot of editing to do! The interview went out on BBC Radio 4 on Tuesday 18th December 2007 and the newspaper item goes out on the centenary day itself, 1st January 2008.
- The centenary has brought in a lot of interest:
- Ed Baker from BNPS (a company that finds news and prepares it for the major newspapers) contacted me the week before Christmas in 2007 and we exchanged emails and calls. He prepared some information that went out to the newspapers on 31st December 2007 which in turn resulted in the following all happening on that day:
- David Brown from The Times contacted me first to get further information on the story for an article he wanted to go out the next day (the centenary of the start of Harry's walk). He spoke to both myself and Mum and I supplied some original photos from my web site. They ran a full page spread on page three. Thanks got o David.
- Next Richard Alleyne from the Daily Telegraph contacted me so he could complete an article to go out the next day. Again I supplied photos from my site. They ran a quarter page article on Page 12. Again, thanks to Richard.
- The phone rang again and Damien Fletcher from the Mirror wanted to chat about Harry's story for an article to go out the next day as well. I supplied photos and he also spoke to Mum. The mirror also organised a photographer to take some pictures of me to go alongside this article. Ben Lack turned up and took those photos, and was very patient with me as I'm not a natural model! I guess that photo shoot was a bad idea, as The Mirror never actually ran the story, unfortunately.
It didn't stop there. On 2nd January 2008:
- The Daily Mail ran a two-page article on the story. They stated that I was illegitimate (I'm not) and they somehow managed to "quote" me, even though they never contacted me at all. They probably didn't want to miss out, seeing as many other papers had already run the story but didn't have time to do it properly.
- I was visited by Steve Bailey from BBC Radio Leeds for an item that went out for his drive time show, later that day.
- I did an interview with Don Mort for our local newspaper Wakefield Express along with photographer, and that went on sale at the end of that week.
- In the afternoon the phone rang again, and this time it was an international call from C.R. Nichols who works in the news room of the Canadian radio station 630CHED based in Edmonton. He asked to do a telephone interview for his radio station's morning program to be broadcast on Friday 4th January, which I was happy to provide, even though I did stumble over my words quite a bit as I was totally unprepared for this!
- To top it all, on Thursday 3rd January Mum and I where taken to the ITV Yorkshire Television's studio in Leeds, where we interviewed for an item on their evening news programme, Calendar. What we didn't realise until arriving was that there is a North and a South version of Calendar which are broadcast to different parts of the region with different presenters, so we actually ended up doing two TV interviews that day. Despite my nerves at doing interviews, this time with television cameras pointing at us, everyone was so friendly and they helped us through it all. It was a wonderful experience.
- On that Friday, The Wakefield Express ran the story as promised and I heard that the Daily Post also ran it. The Canadian radio station 630CHED did indeed broadcast my phone interview right on time (I was able to listen to it through their web site). I also got a phone call from Troy Bailey of the Time Out Guides to say they had published the 2008 London edition of the guide featuring Harry's story on page 19. He kindly sent me a full copy of the guide for our archives. Many thanks to Troy and the publication team.
- Whilst browsing for information with my mother in July 2009, we came across Harry's recruitment into the army document dated 15th November 1915,which I have placed on this web site just as a matter of interest.
- In August 2009, D. Firth found my web site after he discovered an Almanack of Littleport 1907-1908 which listed the Man in the Iron Mask passing through Littleport in July 1908. Also in the December entry of the same year was a footnote, stating that Harry had disclosed the whole thing as a fraud in an article published in "Answers" dated 19th December 1908. This revealing article has been tracked down and is attached to Wolverhampton in Tim Kirby's map.
- In August 2009, Gillian Edom of the West Sussex Record Office contacted me after discovering a photograph of Harry taken at Kingston by Sea in West Sussex on 14th February 1908. She is working on a two year project called Joining up our Heritage which is identifying and attaching material from local museuems and archives to the many lithe maps they have digitised. Gillian came across Harry's picture as part of her work, and did some reasearch, finding this site. Our email exchanges gave her the idea to create a new section on their web site to document the many unusual and interesting items their project would uncover. Harry's picture became the first entry on that web site. See the Gallery page for more information and a link to the picture.
- In November 2013, Kathie Jones contacted us to let us know that a book called "A Grim Almanac of Suffolk" by Neil R Story, has on page 79 a small piece on "The Masked Man" arriving in Ipswich on a date of 13th June 1908. Many thanks Kathie.
- In the summer of 2016, I was contacted by Tim Kirby who had found this website a few years earlier and the story interested him. As an amateur researcher from New Zealand, Tim began to investigate Harry's story in 2016 and he has collected articles from archives in New Zealand, Australia, U.K. and then from archives all around the world. All this he has very kindly shared with us, along with a link to a wonderful dynamic map he built tracing Harry's journey. I prepared a new page in January 2017 highlighting Tim's magnificent research, along with a link to his dynamic map which I'm sure you will find amazing.