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This article is taken from PN Review 217, Volume 40 Number 5, May - June 2014.

Signor Butler and the Search for Desmond Horatio Morpurgo
The Bank of England set up a number of provincial branches after the crash of 1825, in which more than seventy regional banks had collapsed. In Plymouth, for example, it supplied money to the dockyards and acted as a clearing house for the city’s smaller banks. Fifty years later a Charles MacCarthy became one of this branch’s senior administrators. He had married a much younger woman, Louise, and they had a son. There is more than one version of the story that follows but during the late 1880s this prosperous gentleman and his little family were holidaying in the Italian Alps at the Hotel Desteffanis.  

All versions agree that the cricket scores were found to have been cut out of the hotel’s copy of The Telegraph. Some background to this may be helpful. The London papers, delivered now through the recently opened St Gothard tunnel (the longest tunnel in the world at the time) were rarely more than a day out of date in this part of Italy. Rather like budget airlines flying to some little airport now, this circumstance had triggered a kind of mini-craze for the surrounding area. John Ruskin had condemned in the roundest terms the trivial whizzing back and forth which this tunnel made possible. More striking to us now perhaps is the fact that one hundred and seventy-seven workers were killed during its construction.

Anyway the hotel’s chaplain was notified at once of the outrage which had been committed upon the hotel’s copy of The Telegraph. After sympathising with ...

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