Tag Archives: The Book of Heroic Failures

Ungenius in History 3: The Biggest Bankruptcy

1 Feb

Stephen Pile’s Book of Heroic Failures reporting:

British bankruptcy history was made in 1978 by Mr William Stern. The 43-year-old property dealer’s assets totalled £10,070. His total liabilities were in excess of £100,000,000.

Hearing the case in the Royal London Bankruptcy Court, Mr Alan Sales, the Official Receiver, said, ‘This bankruptcy has been described as the world’s biggest, but really it is a very ordinary bankruptcy with noughts at the end.’


Ungenius in History 2: The Least Successful Saving

22 Oct

LampIn view of our modern preoccupation with all things environmentally friendly, we might side with the Bramber Council who opted to turn off the lights for three days. Unfortunately their motivation was cost-saving, and that was where their complete stupidity got Stephen Pile’s attention:

In 1974 Bramber Parish Council decided to go without street lighting for three days as a saving. Afterwards the parish treasurer was pleased to announce that, as a result, electricity to the value of £11.59 had been saved. He added, however, that there was an £18.48 bill for switching the electricity off and another of £12.00 for switching it on again. It had cost the council £18.89 to spend three days in darkness.

Ungenius in History 1: Worst Bus Service

1 Oct

The Book of Heroic FailiuresThe Book of Heroic Failures by Stephen Pile (1979) is one of my favourites. Subtitled ‘The Official Handbook of the Not Terribly Good Club of Great Britain’, it catalogues a magnificent collection of the world’s least successful endeavours. Here’s a peach entitled, ‘The Worst Bus Service’:


Can any bus service rival the fine Hanley to Bagnall route in Staffordshire? In 1976 it was reported that the buses no longer stopped for passengers. This came to light when one of them, Mr Bill Hancock, complained that buses on the outward journey regularly sailed past queues of up to thirty people. Councillor Arthur Cholerton then made transport history by stating that if these buses stopped to pick up passengers, they would disrupt the time-table.