Cats - Dillon

Hwfa Jones:

Dillon was resident in the Met Office 1970 when I arrived - he lived in cardboard beer crate under a 'Danglepoise' lamp. A very accomplished (He could climb ladders) cat with an acute sense of hearing (He could hear the word 'Scradge' from another building).

He managed to venture onto the continent one day by climbing 30ft of iced ladder rungs to the surface. Not having the correct equipment he suffered frost nip in both ears and was tossed some distance into the air by a very confused husky - he was caught and saved by a passing geophysicist and returned safely to the met office where he retired to counsel FIDS for the rest of his tour.
[21 May 2006]

Photo by Hwfa Jones

Origin and spelling of the name, and "dingle" for good weather

Norman Eddleston:
I always thought that he was connected with the Magic Roundabout in some way, but that programme had a Dylan. Then there was the famous acoustic/electric folk singer of that day and this, Bob. Then there was Dylan T., the writer. In fact, there is hardly a noteworthy Dillon anywhere in the world (according to Google). Except that crazy cat.
Norman - I remember now - you're quite right it was Dillon from the Magic Roundabout - (wasn't there also a Zebedee?) as time has passed I thought it must have been from Bob Dylan but we also had Dylan Thomas's recording of 'Under Milkwood' on base from which the words "In the Dingle Starry" came to be used to this day as 'Dingle' for good weather.

Dillon was the Base counsellor - the consultation began with Fids approaching his Office in the Beer crate under the 'danglepoise' lamp and asking Dillon - "What's wrong with you Dillon"? when of course it was the Fid who had the problem!

I guess the Fids of to-day are denied such a service as cats are (like dogs) probably banned by the Treaty of bureaucratic idiots who are stupid enough to think that a cat could escape and cause mahem in a penguin rookery. In actual fact I suspect that the ancestors of cats and dogs will be represented in the Antarctic Fossil record and as such have more right to the continent than Homo Sapiens!

[13 June 2006]


It's an interesting theory that the Fids word "dingle" for fine weather comes from Dylan Thomas's "under the dingle starry", but is there any proof? Perhaps I will ask in the next newsletter. Incidentally, I think the phrase is from the poem "Fern Hill", rather than "Under Milk Wood". According to my dictionary, dingle in that context, means a deep wooded valley. Fern Hill, the name of Thomas's father's farm where he spent time as a child, was published in 1946, during the early days of FIDS, but I don't know how early the term was in use to describe the weather.
[17 June 2006]


We had the record of 'Under Milk Wood' (Spoken by Richard Burton) on Base when I arrived - The met Men were using the term "Dingle Starry" for clear weather because (obviously) of the stars on a clear night. I listened to it a couple of times. Fernhill may have been on the record too. But there was also an EP produced in the 50's of Fern Hill (and probably many copies). Strangely I remember Richard Burton saying "In the Dingle Starry" not as in Fernhill:-
"Now as I was young and easy under the apple boughs
About the lilting house and happy as the grass was green,
The night above the dingle starry",
Another possibility is that some Fid had left his collection on Base and the term was from much earlier - known as originating from Dylan Thomas, from one of his records but only Under Milkwood survived.

So we're looking for an erudite arts Welshman (few enough of them around!) from IGY base onward!

Incidentally in the Mushroom mag there was a contributor who listed the "Top 10" - but I think it died out as we could rarely get the radio working for much other than the Word Service so records were not generally thrown out.

As for Dillon I guess that now he'd be reported by some stupid enviro Fid and end up disposed of as even a slug in a McMurdo lettuce is to-day*
*Big Dead Place - Quite a book!

Of course the met men were always asked about the weather from those who were about to go out - standard replies were just about the temps and wind speed, the latter always checked on the way out (in the recorder) by Fids leaving via the Met Shaft. Dingle starry was one of those replies on a good clear night. Any request for a forecast was always countered with "Don't ask me mate - I'm only a Met Man!"

[18 June 2006]


I have found the complete text of "Under Milk Wood" at A text search shows a handful of dingles (always in the wooded valley sense, in fact one line is "A tiny dingle is Milk Wood") but no "dingle starry". In any case, "in the dingle starry" would not make sense, although I suppose poetry does not always have to make sense.
[20 June 2006]

PS. The above link no longer works but the text may be found here.
[25 May 2012]


Fern Hill it is then.
[20 June 2006]

Matt Paley:

There is another possible root for 'Dingle'. Tom Crean was on several Antarctic trips including the famous Shackleton expedition that was crushed near Halley; it is probably a coincidence but he came from the Dingle Peninsula in Ireland. Could this be the origin of the word?
[25 February 2007]


I think it's probably a co-incidence too. But if you could find a printed use of the word to mean fine, dated before the Dylan Thomas publication, it might strenghten the case. I called at The South Pole Inn, which Crean kept for many years, when I was touring Ireland a few years ago. Did not know it was there; just saw it at the roadside. Still full of Antarctic pictures and memorabilia.
[5 March 2007]

Pete Mountford:

Re - 'Dingle'. I can remember Chas Platt (Met 68/69) being annoyed that there were so many terms and codes for bad weather but nothing for 'nice sunny day', so that was his phrase in the comments. I think 'dingle starry' then became the equivalent term for night obs.
[16 March 2007]

Lewis Juckes:

During the years 1964 and 1965 I certainly never heard the term "dingle" used concerning weather of any type, so it must have appeared after that.

Odd, the way in which some terms appear, some disappear, some persist, and some change. Ken Lax, in his list of Halley Bay slang, comments on the meanings of "spon". In 1964-5 it was not widely used but I certainly heard it from time to time with the meaning of "good" or "excellent". I have no idea where this originated. We also knew the phrase "I've been sponned!", but that was quite separate.

For what it is worth, the 1994 edition of the Dictionary of Contemporary Slang by Tony Thorne gives two meanings for "spon", both different. One is short for "spondulicks" (money), and the other (described as a childish term of abuse, obsolete since the early 1960s) is "a fool".

[19 March 2007]


I am sure Ken is correct about the Goon origin of Spon. It was in used in this sense when I was at Halley Bay in 1971-72. But it was also a common slang term (with the same meaning) when I was at school in the late 1950's, at the time when the Goon Shows were being broadcast, and had quite a lot of schoolboy fans. Incidentally, the nightly exchange of met obs by HF radio between the BAS bases and ships, was also nicknamed "the goon show".
[19 March 2007]


Lewis also has a good point. The 1962 glossary give the meaning of "spon" as "positively invigorating to the heart and soul". By the 1970s its meaning had changed to the goon show one - a "set-back", as in Ken Lax's list of fids' slang. But by the 1980s the term had fallen out of use altogether, see the 1984/85 glossary.
[15 June 2007]

See also Cats by Doug Finlayson and Cats by Roger Tiffin.

Another Dillon

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