Barely Time to Buckle Up; ANSWERS TO CORRESPONDENTS

Article excerpt

Byline: JAMES BLACK;CHARLES LEGGE

QUESTION

What is the shortest commercial flight one can take within the UK?

ORKNEY boasts the record for the world's shortest scheduled flight, which is between Papa Westray and Westray islands.

This route is flown by Loganair pilots using Britten-Norman Islander twin-engined aircraft, and the typical flight time for passengers is two to three minutes.

The distance between the two airfields is about one-and-a-half nautical miles and costs [pounds sterling]18 single or [pounds sterling]30 return.

The route was once accomplished in 58 seconds by a Captain Andrew Alsop.

Brian Whitelegg, Tunbridge Wells, Kent.

QUESTION Who composed the poem All For The Want Of A Horseshoe Nail?

THE rhyme, as we know it today, was first set down by American statesman Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) in Poor Richard's Almanac, June 1758, as: 'For want of a nail the shoe is lost, for want of a shoe the horse is lost, for want of a horse the rider is lost, for want of a rider the battle is lost, for want of a battle the kingdom is lost. All for the loss of a horseshoe nail.' Franklin was one of the 18th century's most remarkable men.

He has been described variously as a printer, journalist, publisher, author, philanthropist, abolitionist, public servant, scientist, librarian, diplomat, inventor and one of the leaders of the American Revolution.

The rhyme essentially tells us how we should not leave anything to chance, and for Franklin to be so successful in so many disciplines we can see why this was a favourite maxim.

Franklin adapted the poem from an old saying set down in George Herbert's Outlandish Proverbs (1640). Herbert was a priest, poet and collector of proverbs, which, far from being outlandish, were examples of 'folk wisdom'.

Many utilised references to nature as a means of making them more relevant to a predominantly rural audience.

Herbert often stated that rural congregations were not always interested in the formal aspects of the Anglican service. So he spiced up his sermons with this proverb, and others, such as 'Flies are busiest about leane horses', 'Sleepe without supping, and wake without owing', 'He that sowes trusts in God' and 'He that will not have peace, God gives him warre'.

As with many proverbs of this type, there is no known original author for All For The Want Of A Horseshoe Nail. They are simply part of the oral tradition.

The reference to horses and war may indicate feudal origins, and we do know that a similar proverb originated in France in the 15th century. One website has pointed to John Gower's Confessio Amantis (c.1383) as a possible source. …