Coco, a true class clown

Scottish Daily Mail - - Freeview Primetime Planner -

QUES­TION I have a road safety award from the Fifties awarded by the Ber­tram Mills Cir­cus and pre­sented by Coco the Clown. Why did Coco be­come a road safety cam­paigner? NI­colAI PolIAkoff, oBE (1900-1974), was the lat­vian cre­ator of coco the clown, the most fa­mous Uk clown in the mid­dle decades of the 20th cen­tury.

As he told Roy Plomely on Desert Is­land Discs, he wasn’t a clown but an ‘au­guste’ — the butt of the white-faced clown’s jokes, cus­tard pies and buck­ets of wa­ter.

coco tells the story of his in­volve­ment in road safety in his au­to­bi­og­ra­phy, coco the clown: His life story told By Him­self. His road cam­paign be­gan in 1947 fol­low­ing an in­ci­dent with the cir­cus elec­tri­cian and his seven-year-old son char­lie.

coco had in­vited char­lie to watch him put on his make-up and was amazed by the boy’s in­sight­ful ques­tions. the fol­low­ing day char­lie’s fa­ther came to his dress­ing room ‘with tears in his eyes’.

‘coco,’ he said, ‘a ter­ri­ble thing has hap­pened to my boy. He was play­ing in the street this morn­ing, and a lorry knocked him down and ran over him.’

coco vis­ited the boy: ‘When I saw char­lie in hospi­tal, it broke my heart.’ the boy sur­vived, but the ac­ci­dent in­spired coco to be­gin his cam­paign with the help of the Ber­tram Mills cir­cus.

‘Now when the cir­cus comes to town I visit as many as four schools a day,’ he said. ‘I go in my make-up, and at first I en­ter­tain them with some con­jur­ing tricks and play some games with them; and af­ter that I give them a quiz on road safety.

‘the boys and girls who give me the right an­swers will be the win­ners and will get a spe­cial road safety cer­tifi­cate and a road safety badge, es­pe­cially printed for me by Ber­tram Mills cir­cus.’

We live in Wood­new­ton, Northamp­ton­shire, and have done so for 49 years. coco and his wife Valentina were good friends of ours as were mem­bers of his fam­ily, par­tic­u­larly the youngest daugh­ter ta­mara and her hus­band Ali Has­sani.

they founded the cir­cus Has­sani which con­tin­ues through their daugh­ter Mina and still tours the coun­try.

one of coco’s grand­daugh­ters lives in the next vil­lage to us.

coco and his wife are buried in our church­yard. It was through his el­dest daugh­ter He­len and the help of clowns In­ter­na­tional that we were able to raise the money to build our vil­lage hall, which was opened by Nor­man Wis­dom in 1992.

coco was the sub­ject of this Is Your life in 1962. Trevor Danks, Wood­new­ton, Northants. QUES­TION Why are the jet en­gines on aero­planes set for­ward of the wings and not fit­ted di­rectly un­der the wings? tHE short an­swer to this is be­cause it al­lows the de­signer of the air­craft to use a lighter and more ef­fi­cient wing. Now for the long an­swer . . . con­sider an air­craft fly­ing at sub­sonic speed: all the aero­dy­namic forces on the wing, in par­tic­u­lar the lift, act at a point one-quar­ter of the width (chord) of the wing back from the lead­ing edge.

How­ever, the cen­tre of grav­ity of the wing, the point where all its weight can be con­sid­ered to act, can be fur­ther back than this.

In level flight at con­stant air­speed, the wing will be ef­fec­tively at a slight pos­i­tive an­gle rel­a­tive to the air­flow so that it pro­duces the lift re­quired to sup­port the en­tire air­craft.

A slight dis­tur­bance to the air­flow will in­crease this an­gle slightly, and the wing will pro­duce more lift. this will ini­tially cause the wing to bend up slightly.

If the cen­tre of grav­ity of the wing is be­hind the cen­tre of lift, then the rear part of the wing will not bend up­wards as quickly as the front.

this causes the wing to twist as it bends in such a way as to cause a fur­ther in­crease in lift. the more it twists, the more lift it gen­er­ates, lead­ing to more twist and so on.

this is an ex­tremely dan­ger­ous pos­i­tive feed­back sit­u­a­tion which can re­sult in the wing rapidly fail­ing in flight ei­ther from sim­ply be­ing bent too far, or from flut­ter­ing rapidly up and down.

for those not fa­mil­iar with air­craft, this is a very bad thing. for­tu­nately, there are a num­ber of so­lu­tions.

one is to make the wing stronger. But this will make it heav­ier, re­duc­ing its abil­ity to carry pas­sen­gers or cargo long dis­tances. Also the prob­lem could re­turn if, un­der emer­gency or tur­bu­lent con­di­tions, the air­craft ex­ceeded its nor­mal max­i­mum speed.

Al­ter­na­tively, the wing could be de­signed so as to keep its weight ei­ther at or in front of the quar­ter chord po­si­tion. this is dif­fi­cult to do on an air­liner which car­ries most of its fuel in the wings.

the so­lu­tion gen­er­ally adopted is to mount the en­gines on py­lons for­ward of the wings, so the ef­fec­tive cen­tre of grav­ity of the wing/engine com­bi­na­tion is for­ward of the quar­ter chord point.

this en­sures that when the wing flexes in flight, it twists in such a way as to re­duce the force on the wing.

this is a very safe so­lu­tion, as it con­tin­ues to work even if the nor­mal max­i­mum speed is ex­ceeded.

De­nis Sharp, Hail­sham, E. Sus­sex.

IS THERE a ques­tion to which you have al­ways wanted to know the an­swer? Or do you know the an­swer to a ques­tion raised here? Send your ques­tions and an­swers to: Charles Legge, An­swers To Cor­re­spon­dents, Scot­tish Daily Mail, 20 Water­loo Street, Glas­gow G2 6DB; fax them to 0141 331 4739 or email them to charles.legge@dai­ly­mail.co.uk. A se­lec­tion will be pub­lished but we are not able to en­ter into in­di­vid­ual cor­re­spon­dence.

Big shoes to fill: Coco the Clown gives a road safety talk at a ju­nior school. In­set: The Coco badge

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