Posted by: Didapper PJ19 OCT 2011
Robert Blyth, a former editor of The Pharmaceutical Journal was due to celebrate his 90th birthday yesterday (21 October 2011). Addressing his birthday card reminded me that he lives in a street with an unusual name, being the only road in Britain called Mortons Fork.
The name has always amused me because “Morton’s fork” means a choice between two equally unpleasant alternatives. The term has its origins in a tax system devised in 1487 by the Lord Chancellor, Archbishop John Morton.
He would visit noblemen and assess the level of hospitality offered him: if it was lavish, he assumed they were wealthy and levied a heavy tax; if it was frugal, he assumed they had a fortune salted away — and levied a heavy tax. Either way, they were caught on the prongs of a two-tined fork — similar to the horns of a dilemma.
The road named Mortons Fork is in a district of Milton Keynes known as Blue Bridge. When the area was developed for housing, the Milton Keynes Development Corporation wanted to name the streets after famous bridges. But because most bridge names had already been used elsewhere in other contexts, they decided instead to use names connected with the card game bridge.
They chose Blackwood Crescent, Culbertson Lane and Gardiner Court after the inventors of bidding systems, Van Der Bilt Court after a compiler of the game’s laws, Vienna Grove after the “Vienna coup” (an unblocking play first recorded in Vienna) and Mortons Fork (for a road that forks) after a playing manoeuvre that emulates Archbishop Morton’s strategy.
However, half these names are wrong. Bridge-playing friends tell me that Van Der Bilt should be Vanderbilt, Gardiner should be Gardener and Mortons should, of course, be Morton’s.
Robert Blyth never allowed such sloppiness in the PJ.