The 1999 Mensa Total Eclipse Party
Wednesday 11th August 1999; Rethel, France


On the left bank of the River Aisne, about 7Km east-south-east of Rethel and better known simply as 'Thugny', these rural, twin villages with a combined population of a little over 250 people were first amalgamated by Napoleon himself and combine commuter housing for workers in Rethel and Reims with a traditional agricultural base.

The main places of interest include:

The Church

Dating from the Middle Ages and rebuilt in 1555 by local craftsmen, only the side aisles of the original church remain. The font base is made of Givet stone, from the far north of the Ardennes.

The Chateau

Again going back to the Middle Ages, the chateau is still enclosed by a moat and retains its original defensive walls. Traditional visits by Parisian entertainers ended during WW1 when the chateau's beautiful theatre was destroyed by fire. The chateau is still inhabited and thus, regretfully, not open to the public.

The Tomb

One of Julius Caesars most famous warriors lies buried nearby in a tree shrouded mound, from the top of which one may enjoy breathtaking views of the Aisne valley and, weather permitting, count 22 belfries.

'Home Pillay'

Of uncertain age, this house occupies a central position in the village and was certainly occupied by A.B.G. Pillay, one of Napoleons dashing Dragoon Guards (and one of the very few to survive Napoleons fated foray into Russia) from before 1770. Pillay refused to serve under any other than Napoleon and thus remained a Lieutenant all his life, but many stories are told about him, including his miraculous escape from a firing squad after shooting a soldier of the occupying Russian army. Pillay is buried in the village cemetery, as is the soldier he shot.

Our new party site is in the private grounds of 'Home of Pillay'. Only 250 meters south of the bridges over the River Aisne and the Canal des Ardennes (with adjacent lock), 'Home of Pillay' is a large mansion house with poplar groves and chestnut trees over 300 years old, set in a little over 1 hectare of grounds, inside a high perimeter wall. The grounds also include an aviary and a games pitch. There is also a bowling alley at the canal lock (c. 300m away).

The gate at the rear provides access from the road (including for vehicles) and cars may be parked in the poplar groves for a nominal charge of 20FF/car/day (recommended as the surrounding area is working farmland and French farmers are noted for a) their lack of tolerance of tourists parking on their land b) their inclination to emphasise this with a shotgun! Seriously!)

For the party, we will be erecting a large marquee (to provide shelter at night/should the weather turn foul). As the building and grounds have the French equivalent of 'listed' status, we cannot hold a mechoui (because of the damage it would do). However, we will have a professionally run barbecue and the caterers will remain on site until late into the night, offering any further refreshments you may need, as well as a full dinner for around 45FF!

Access to the party site will be possible from around 8.30am on Wednesday 11.8.99 and the barbecue will begin shortly after the end of the eclipse. Dinner will be served (for those who want it) around 6.00pm and the presentation 'The Night of the Shooting Stars' (given by respected local astronomers) will follow after dinner, to prepare us all for the anticipated meteor shower as dusk fades into night.

If you have any queries or we can help you in any way, please contact any of the following before Saturday 7.8.99: Bernard Colman (+44 (0)1744 815000):
Brian Flemming (+44 (0)131 557 8174; email< >)
Pete Baimbridge (+44 (0)161 928 6140/0385 505022; email < >)