Lit Up in Fairy Lamps

Story of the Day for Thursday July 21, 2011


Lit Up in Fairy Lamps


                    In those days, as the number of disciples increased, the Greeks complained to the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution of food. 

                                                                Acts 6:1

 Great Britain, as part of her coronation celebration for King George VI, staged a review of the royal fleet. On May 20, 1937, the Spithead Review was immortalized by a BBC radio announcer, retired Lieutenant Commander, Thomas Woodrooffe.

But, the radio pre-transmission test sounded troublesome, and the broadcast director was alerted that all might not go well with the broadcast. The Commander’s celebration before the broadcast was, to put it mildly, enthusiastic. Woodrooffe did not disappoint those at the radio station who feared a coming disaster.


“At the present moment,” the Commander began, “the whole fleet is lit up. When I say ‘lit up’ I mean lit up by fairy lamps. . . The whole thing is lit up by fairy lamps. It’s fantastic! It isn’t a fleet at all – it’s just fairy land. The whole thing is in fairy land!”

Woodrooffe was beginning to warm to his theme.

“And when I say a fleet is ‘lit up in lamps’ I mean she’s outlined. The whole ship’s outlined. . .In little lamps.”

The Commander would pause, sometimes for over ten seconds – which, on the radio, is an eternity. After a prolonged silence he proudly announced, “I’m sorry, I was telling people to shut up talking.”

Woodrooffe knew he had grasped the nub of the issue and was not about to let it go.

“What I mean is this: the whole fleet is lit up. In fairy lamps. And each ship is outlined. . . the ships are all lit up. They’re outlined – the whole lot. . . But at this moment there’s a whole huge fleet here. . . this colossal fleet. Lit up. By lights. And the whole scene’s in fairy land. . .”


“The Woodrooffe Incident,” as it came to be called, alerted the BBC that they had no procedures in place to interrupt a live broadcast. (A studio engineer finally cut the Commander off the air, even though he had no authority to do so.) But the BBC learned from its mistake and installed an announcer on duty to intervene should another live broadcast dissolve into calamity.


The early church made mistakes. As Christians multiplied in Jerusalem, the church didn’t fairly distribute food to the poor.  The Greek-speaking widows, who didn’t speak the native language, were neglected.

But when they realized their mistake, the church corrected the problem. Seven men were chosen to see that food was distributed fairly to everyone. And, in a touching gesture, all seven of those responsible for feeding the poor had Greek names.


Don’t worry about making mistakes – you’re not going to avoid them. The only thing you need to worry about is failing to learn, and grow, from them.

                                        (copyright by and by Marty Kaarre

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