Pops â€” I have a theory about this interesting set that it was inspired by General Charles Gordon's death at the end of the siege of Khartoum, capital of Sudan, on January 26, 1885. This was a period of world stability, so the news from Sudan attracted great interest, and Gordon became a national hero.
I usually find national heroes rather difficult to take, but Gordon seems to be an exception, as, while he was Administrator of Sudan, 1874â€“1880, he was instrumental in ending the slave trade in the country.
Whatever the actual history of this set, it would have been a poor marketing or sales executive who did not play the Gordon / Khartoum card to its fullest extent. You can imagine father and son on a Sunday afternoon spreading a sandy coloured cloth over the dining table and carefully setting out the fortifications. Then adding all the brightly painted cast lead actors â€“ dozens of British soldiers, Arabs, palm trees, wells, Whirling Dervishes, camels, horses, field guns (which actually fired), a field hospital, etc., etc. "My turn to be General Gordon, Dad, and I'm going to win today."
I have only one piece of real evidence for this. The frequency with which odd pieces of this set turn up, usually badly chipped. Presumably from the family toy box. I am sure that Molineux, Webb & Co. made a small fortune over many years from this inspired product.
Sets like yours in superb condition are quite scarce. It looks to me as if just one fort from the original layout is missing, so your set was probably only used as a table decoration. It should not be too difficult to obtain a replacement fort â€” singles come up fairly frequently on eBay. Is yours the flint or opalescent version? I cannot tell from your photograph.
Finally, we celebrated my partner Janet's birthday, May 2nd this year, at the excellent open air Africa
Arab restaurant, just a short walk from the Nile ferry on the west bank at Luxor. It is run by Ali, a good friend of my daughter, and a lovely gentleman. Purely by coincidence two other birthdays were being celebrated there that evening. One was a lady who was born on the same day as Janet; the other was a slightly younger family who had asked Ali to arrange the local folk band to entertain them. So tables were cleared away in front of the band, and eventually, well after the band had warmed up, a real Whirling Dervish arrived, kitted himself up with the detachable skirt and, boy, did he whirl. Wonderful. Audience participation was obligatory, so yours truly took part in an enthusiastic stick dance (very badly I hasten to add).
A great and unforgettable evening. So I have been there, experienced the real thing, and, therefore, all this must be true.