Twenty-five years ago today, a great storm swept across Southern England leaving devastation in its wake. It was the making of one man.
The weather is a source of perennial discussion in these islands, though to be fair, we've never experienced anything like Hurricane Katrina, and the very occasional tornadoes we've seen have done little damage. On the night of October 15-16, 1987, all that changed, when hurricane force winds swept across the south of the country, causing 18 deaths here and 4 in France. They also restructured the landscape, of one town in particular.
The Kent town of Sevenoaks took its name from its founder, William Sevenoke, who became Mayor of London in 1418. In 1902, seven oak trees were planted there to commemorate the coronation of Edward VII. During the night of the Great Storm, six of these were blown away.
The good news is that these were replaced, and there are now 9 oak trees standing on this site. The really good news for one local man is that the storm was the making of him. Before it, Bob Ogley, who was born in the town, had been a journalist and editor of the local paper.
The following year he published his first book, In The Wake Of The Hurricane, and has built a career on that and as a local historian since. While six trees in particular may have suffered in Sevenoaks, elsewhere a great many more were torn down, including an estimated 15-20,000 at Wakehurst Place in West Sussex.