Snowdrop - An Appreciation

Pelobates fiftieth issue cannot be allowed to pass without some mention of the Club's sole honorary member. Known affectionately as "Snowdrop", she was already in advancing years when the club was formed in 1964 but, belonging to a syndicate of members of Croydon Y.H.A. Group, had no formal connection with the C.C.C.

Snowdrop accompanied members on many caving trips, and served the Club well, despite her failing health, right up to the time of her sad departure from this world, due principally to her old age and frequent overheating. Her demise was marked, simply by an obituary notice in the "The Times" by members of the syndicate.

It was the overheating that led to what is probably the best known story of Snowdrop, because her thirst for water was only just matched by her thirst for petrol. Consequently, it became usual to carry cans of spare water and petrol. Dick Ockenden tells the story thus :-

"It was a caving weekend back in October 1964 and all went well until we reached an all-night café, down Marlborough way. There we decided to help out a stranded motorist by selling him a gallon of our spare petrol. For this he paid his five shillings, bade a cheery farewell and motored off into the night. It was at this instant that we looked down at the spare water can in our hands, and then, horror-struck, at the unopened petrol can still in the ambulance. This chap had just bought the most expensive gallon of water yet!

Surprise, surprise, we inevitably passed a broken down car, half a mile down the road and, all innocent like and being frightfully helpful, we offered him a tow to Marlborough and a lift to where he was going (it was about 2.00 a.m.)."

It was the overheating which caused the bonnet sides to be removed on many ( if not most ) occasions, and we must surely be the first British Caving Club to have travelled in a vehicle having an air-cooled engine. This was also very convenient, in that it allowed a tin to be hung under the engine to catch the oil which, at one stage, dripped out. When Snowdrop stopped at cafés, for petrol, etc. ) somebody would quickly pour this oil back into the top of the engine. It was during this period that she pulled into a newly opened petrol station which had a gleaming white concrete forecourt. A "person unknown" unhooked the tin, but being distracted at this moment, he balanced the tin of oil on top of the engine where, of course, it became forgotten. As Snowdrop pulled away, the can unbalanced itself and proceeded to spread its contents of very dirty engine oil across the once white concrete.

As Snowdrop grew older, she began to suffer from many of the complaints felt by ageing - her generator wouldn't generate, her crankshaft wouldn't crank, and her pistons wouldn't work very well, either. It became obvious that the end could not be far away, and she eventually passed peacefully away from natural causes.

Farewell, Snowdrop. We'll not forget you.

R. I .P

Graham Denton