The Letters of Reverend E C Alston

Part 2 – October 1971

I spent a nostalgic Sunday assembling the Buller/Alston correspondence into some sort of order, and being generally appalled by the Reverend’s handwriting that makes the scrawl of a doctor look legible. But that is my problem, and you have to ask if emails rather than good old-fashioned letters would have survived half a century, almost to the month.

I am very aware that I am handling a minute part of 20th century history here, and this has made me realise how the sport really needs its own museum – after decades of thought and talk.

It would seem that the flow of letters began with Fred’s polite request for photographs of Alston’s record rudd for a book he was preparing – Rigs, Tackles and Methods with Notes on the Natural History of British Freshwater Fishes. I am assuming this was a work that was to become Freshwater Fishing by Buller AND Falkus?

(Please, at any time during this delve into the 1970s, do not hesitate to put me right when required. This is a piece of history for us all to share, and there is a requirement to get it right.)

Repeatedly I am struck by the courtesies of the past that have been lost so quickly, and by the appearance of names that are so close to being lost in present-day angling. Especially, I am breathtaken at how close I am to some of the issues raised.

For example, Fred asks for a photograph of Alston’s cased, record rudd. My story is that ten years ago, by sheer chance, a friend of a friend put me in touch with an immensely old lady who lived in a tumbledown Norfolk hall not far from Cromer.

There, in a back passage, completely forgotten about, was the historic case of rudd. The fish, four pounds and four and a half pounds, were in good condition and I took a raft of pictures – which I have lost but will endeavour to find. I made tentative enquiries about a purchase, but the old lady died before deciding and I believe the estate was broken up.

(A friend went to view a house for sale in Blakeney, around fifteen miles away, at around the same time. There he found the cased record tench that Alston had caught from Ringmere near Thetford, on the same day as the rudd I believe. He did not take a photograph.)

The talk of burbot is an interesting one too. If my memory serves me right, the picture of this fish appeared in Freshwater Fishing, but I cannot be sure as I have lost my copy, as I have written previously. Did Alston catch this fish? I think so, probably in the Thirties when burbot were still quite common in the Thet and other Fenland rivers.

The letters are reproduced for your own studies, and as a record of this fascinating relationship at its inception.

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