Traviss Frederick Teversham (Born 11 July 1882 – 1971)
- Sawston Infants’ School, 1886-1889, Boys’ School, 1889-1894,
- Perse Grammar School, 1894-1899,
- University of Cambridge, Department of Agriculture, 1900-1902, awarded Diploma in Agriculture, 1902.
(Note: Traviss’s daily journeys on foot to Shelford station, and from Cambridge station to the Perse, and later to the Department of Agriculture involved a total of 8 miles/day for 6 days a week = 48 miles/week. Assuming 48 active weeks each year, 48 x 48 = 2304 miles a year. So in 8 years he walked 18,432 miles – about 3/4 of the earth’s circumference at the equator.
This was the price he paid for academic success!).
- Agricultural Science Master, Soham Grammar School, 1902-1903
- Lecturer to Government of Jamaica, 1903-1906, resigned due to ill health 1906.
- Science Master, Haversham Grammar School, 1906-1911
- Science and Second Master, Galway Grammar School, 1911-1914.
- Science and Agricultural Master, Hanley castle Grammar School 1914-1915
- November 1915, joined the 26th Regiment , Royal Fusiliers, 3 months in France, 1916, injured at Flanders. Repatriated, and joined the 11th Bedfordshires in 1916, but went to Lowestoft-Norwich War Hospital and invalided in 1918.
- Chemistry Master, Giggleswick Grammar School, 1918-1920
- Science Master, Maidstone Grammar School, 1920-1926.
- Retired due to ill health, Papworth Hospital 1926, took 3 years to recover at home in Sawston.
- Became principal guide at Sawston Hall, 1928,
- Appointed Churchwarden, St.Mary’s, Sawston, 1932.
- History of Sawston, part I, 1942, part II, 1947, (Crampton & Sons Ltd.)
- Sawston Estate Account of the Fourteenth Century, 1959 (Ronald Bircham)
- The Story of a Country Printing House, (Crampton & Sons, Ltd. 1960)
Died at Edwinstowe, 9 Chaucer Road, Cambridge, 1971.
Introduction to Traviss Teversham’s ‘REMINISCENCE’
Edited introduction by Ronald Bircham, vicar of St. Mary’s, Sawston:
When he died Traviss Teversham left me his literary remains in the hope that I would keep them together. This I have done, for the most part, for to attempt to separate them into their respective parts would be a formidable task. Recently I did make some small effort to arrange them in some semblance of order, but I had hardly begun when I came across a thin file marked ‘Reminiscence’ which is produced here.
Certainly a part of these recollections has appeared in his ‘History of Sawston’, but the greater part, I believe, has not been published; although it probably formed part of talks he gave to various local societies and associations.
It seemed to me, rightly or wrongly, that these memories would be appreciated by a larger readership than just myself and my immediate family, and so I have made them available.
There are still Sawston people who remember Traviss Teversham and all that he has meant to the parish and the parish church. There are also those who, although they may not have known him, will learn something of him from these pages, for he stamped his personality on everything he wrote, and in some ways they represent Traviss’ views on the village, and of life itself, over a long and very difficult period in our history.
These recollections were written about 1942, just about the same time as his ‘History of Sawston; Part I’ was being published. Perhaps he intended to have embodied them in Volume II, but found that there was no room, or what is more probable, that expense could be saved by leaving them out.
His account of the men of Sawston who died in the 1914-18 war is a most poignant one; there is the feeling of caring and concern as though they were all his own kith and kin in the sense of John Donne’s…..’for whom the bell tolls…’ On the other hand one cannot escape the feeling that here is a schoolmaster writing his terminal reports about his boys, or giving them a testimonial for some important post for which they were applying, or even a peroration in the classical sense, bur in a very homely and rustic manner. He writes with genuine feeling.
Eris Fortin, whom he mentions, was destined to become his brother – in – law; he was to have married Traviss’s sister Sally. Ewart, one of the two Teversham brothers who married, called his son Eric, and I remember when he and I were sorting out Traviss’ papers after his death, hoping that we were harbouring no rubbish nor destroying some precious fragment that should have been retained, we came across a packet of letters tied up with ribbon or tape. They may have proved to be some literary gem, I do not know; we examined them just sufficiently to establish that they were love-letters written to Sally from Eric, we felt we had no right to look deeper and we burnt them.
Ronald Bircham, the Vicarage, Sawston, May 1976.
One of my earliest recollections is of being taken by my father into Town Close on warm summer days, where I roamed and tumbled among the lush grasses and picked handfuls of wild flowers which I took home to my mother. These rambles with my father, at a very early age, in the Mill Lane closes may account for the endless pleasure I have always derived from botanising in the open field, whether for serious study or simply as a delightful hobby in my leisure hours. An incident, a year or two later, which sticks in the memory, was a visit with my mother to the local wart – curer, Henry Perry, a carpenter on the Mill Farm Estate. He was a sturdy old man about 80 years of age, tall and powerfully built with very large hands, and was engaged at the time in mending the fence around the New Road allotments.
“I’ve brought my little boy to see you, Mr Perry” said my mother – “He has a very nasty wart on his knuckle” It was a bleeding wart with four prongs to it and was very painful. The old man left his work and took my hand in one of his, making a few motions over it with his other hand and murmuring a few unintelligible phrases before releasing my hand and saying “That’ll be all right.”
“Thank you very much, Mr Perry” said my mother as we moved away. Within a few weeks of this visit, the wart had disappeared, a prong at a time.
I vividly recall the loud rattle of a bone-shaker ridden a furlong away along Mill Lane by Ted Haylock, a stockman at the Mill Farm, and on several occasions being invited by James Hedding, a Mill manager, to jump up onto the back-stop of his penny-farthing bike, as he was cycling along the lane to or from the Mill. The first pneumatic-tyred bicycle I saw in Sawston was ridden by Edwin Moss about the year 1893.
But only the fortunate few owned bicycles, even of the cushion-tyred or solid-tyred variety, and it was on foot that children went to school and back. Farm labourers and factory hands alike walked to and fro from work, and a familiar every day sound along the village street was the clatter of the skinners’ clogs, and with it the penetrating smell of the tannery. Every morning at half-past five a company of men and lads set off along the Green Road and the mile path to Babraham to one or other of the Babraham farms, one of which lies at the foot of the Gog Magog slope. The long 12-hour day around the farm or in the field was followed by the long trudge home, no matter what the weather. Other labourers travelled daily on foot to Dernford ‘oily’ Mill and Dernford farm, over Huckeridge Hill and then along the ancient footpath which overlooks Dernford Fen. Despite the long hours and the very low wages, there was always keen competition for any job going at ehe Paper Mill, where over 200 hands – men, women boys and girls – from Sawston alone, were employed.
Girls in their early teens and young women preferred to work in the soll or rag room for 3/6d a week or less, than go into domestic service and suffer the indignity of being called a ‘skivvy’.
Once a year I went for a trip to Cambridge with my mother in the carrier’s cart, a real adventure for me. The vehicle, a kind of covered wagon, was heavily laden with large bundles which were delivered at the various inns and other places along the route, the terminus being the cobble-stoned yard of the little Rose Inn in Trumpington Street. Boys from the village made a regular practice of meeting the cart at New Found Out on its return journey in the evening to plague the life out of old George Barker, the carrier, with their shouts of “Whip behind!” and I was one of their number.
In the eighties and nineties, boys wore three-quarter trousers, ending half way down the leg, and made from the cast-offs of father and elder brother. Girls were not respectably dressed without a white pinafore, called a ‘pinny’, and goodness knows how many articles underneath the dress which covered the ankles. My mother was proud of her waist which her husband could span, and I remember too, her bustle with the long tapes, which used to hang in the wardrobe, and her prim little Sunday bonnet with a bunch of artificial violets for decoration. I remember also that I derived considerable pleasure in smoothing the soft silken surface of my father’s top-hat.
My maternal grand-parents and their ancestors from the early eighteenth century were Pampisford folk, and we sometimes attended the village church there on Sundays, where my mother and her sisters and brothers were baptised and confirmed. When the squire entered, the congregation stood up and remained standing until he and his servants in livery were in their pews. Many of the village women and girls curtseyed if they passed the squire and his lady in the street. None of these observances were regarded as peculiar or in any way objectionable, but merely as good manners. We were brought up on old-fashioned conservative principles –
Oh, let us love our occupations,
Bless the squire and his relations,
Live upon our daily rations,
And always know our proper stations.
There were at least four well-defined grades of society in the Sawston of my childhood. Snobbery was rampant and at its worst among the middle-class and the trades-folk. No lady in those strange days, or gentleman either for that matter, would be seen in the street carrying a parcel, for that would have been an admission on their part that he or she could afford to pay anyone to fetch it for them, which was unthinkable. One lady I knew called on Joe Smith the confectioner for “two Bath buns, and would you send them along to my house”. The house was a mile away, whither the lady herself was going at the time. The two penny buns were duly sent and delivered as she requested.
Of my early days at school I have no very vivid recollections. At the age of four I used to toddle across the Baulks to the infants’ School under Harriet Girdlestone, a tall forbidding figure, severs of countenance with a wasp waist, and wearing a dark grey dress of a clinging material which swept the floor as she moved about the room. All that I can remember about the teaching is that she threatened if we misbehaved, to send us into a dark hole underneath the gallery (long since removed) – that and fiddling about with a card on which we worked a design by interweaving upon it some coloured and shining material. In the big school (the Boys’ School) at the age of seven, I recall shivering cold days in winter time when we marched at intervals round and round the schoolroom, singing, “Twice one are two, twice two are four…. etc., and clapping our hands to keep warm.
James Penney the schoolmaster and his cane – in my mind I cannot separate the two, not because he was in any way cruel, but he obviously regarded the cane as indispensible both in giving instruction and in maintaining discipline. The cane was either in his hand or displayed prominently in the centre of the room.
Of several assistant masters, one in particular I have never forgotten – Stream was his name. Like his successor, John Pallister, he kept terms at Cambridge, and walked to the school from Shelford station each morning, returning to Cambridge in the evening. Stream had a nasty habit of coming behind you as you sat rather uncomfortably at the desk and with his clenched fist playfully punching you under the ribs. He had no idea that it hurt and did so quite unintentionally. His instruction I have long since forgotten but I can still feel myself cringing as I awaited that dig under the ribs and the gasp for breath after it.
Bert Pedley, from North Farm, was a ‘ten o’clock boy’ who had always done a hard morning’s work feeding the stock before reaching school. On one memorable occasion Bert had only just got into school when there was an altercation between him and the tall assistant master, whose name I forget. Bert pulled out the poker, red-hot and glowing from the fire near the door, and brandished it aloft in a threatening manner – the picture fades……… and what happened afterwards has completely gone from memory.
For the homeward journey from the school to my home in new Road, there was a choice of routes – when the weather was bleak and uninviting we doubled or trundled our hoops or played hits and spans with long throws of the marble, across the Baulks, but on warm afternoons in summer and autumn it was pleasant to dally along Mill Lane, birdsnesting and picking dewberries among the dense undergrowth by the laneside, or to stroll into or around the closes, to climb the old oak tree beneath which lovers kept tryst in the gloaming, to chew acorns and beech-nuts, and better still when the coast was clear, to raid John Townsend’s orchard and in particular his walnuts. John Townsend was his name, but known to everyone as ‘Johnny Scotcher’ – he was slightly deformed and had a waddling gait. We kept a sharp look0out on his movements for he detested schoolboys and with very good reason, for in many ways we pestered the life out of him.
In Victorian times Mill Lane was still, as in mediaeval days, a winding and sheltered avenue with grass verges shaded by pollard elms and ash trees, where children could safely wander. On the one side between the Baulks and the Lane was corn-land, a field which was always thoroughly gleaned, and where the air at harvest time was heavily laden with the scent of wild mint, and on the other side, quiet enclosed pastures, whither in the cool of summer evenings tired horses were led from Church Farm, and where in the heat of the day, cattle grazed or drowsed away the hours in the shade of ancient oaks and elms. But the Lane has other memories of an unpleasant character, of disastrous floods which brought discomfort, disease and distress into many homes. Only very young children could see the fun of being one of a family marooned for several days in a top bedroom, and later, when the flood subsided, to find front room (reception room) living room, scullery, cellar and outhouses covered with mud and filth. It is strange to record that even then, as in one year, the flood reached as far east as the Salvation Army Citadel, no public enquiry took place to consider either the causes of the floods or methods of prevention. During one such flood-time a rowing-boat was sculled along the full length of the Lane from Butlers’ to Noah’s Ark, while Bill Lucas, one of my school-fellows, amused himself cruising about in his mother’s keeler. A year or two later Bill, quite fittingly, joined the Royal Navy. The last serious flood occurred in May 1918, when a whole row of partly submerged clay-bat houses at the western end of the Lane suddenly collapsed.
Until my father died in 1892 following a virulent attack of pneumonia, one of my daily tasks was to take his dinner down to the Paper Mill, when he was working the day shift. He liked to have me with him for as long as possible, and I liked to hang around, watching the lads at the cutters in the hot-loft arranging the sheets as they fell from the knives into the correct position, and in consequence I was often late for afternoon school and so ‘had the cane’ as a matter of course. Until free education was introduced in 1891, the school fee was 2d a week, and in days when it was still fashionable for young married couples to have babies at regular intervals – I was one of five in twelve years – sometimes as much as 6d or more a week was due from some families who were often behind-hand with their payments as might have been expected, if it be remembered that twelve shillings a week was the top rate of pay for a first-class ploughman and that the majority of labourers, whether on the farm or in the factory, earned even less. At least two men I knew well, one was a next-door neighbour, had married on a wage of nine shillings a week, and God alone knew how they managed.
About the year 1885 my father lost the top joints of the two forefingers of his right hand. The accident took place in the hot loft, where he was foreman, as he was removing one of the large rolls of paper. The loss or mutilation of a finger was by no means a rare occurrence as many villagers can testify. My father was at home for three months after the accident, the only source of income being the Oddfellows’ club money of twelve shillings a week, the Mill slate club to which he contributed having, unfortunately for him and the family, run out just before the accident. His employer, Edward Towgood, was most considerate and sent the vicar to enquire if the family were in need of help. This vicar, who moved in fashionable circles, followed the hounds and had a haughty manner. When he called at the house, he looked round and remarked to my mother as she sat nursing her baby that we did not appear to be in need of assistance; my mother, bless her heart, curtly agreed with him and he hurriedly left the room. Three years before this incident, she went to be ‘churched’ by the same vicar, but after waiting in church for a long time she sent word by the verger that she herself had given thanks to God for her safe deliverance and so would not trouble the vicar – she also put her offering of sixpence in the alms box as she left the church. It is rather significant that after this vicar’s departure in 1886, the Registers recode several instances of family baptisms when two or more children of the same family were baptised on the same day.
In the nineties, law and order were sternly enforced and supported by a severe penal code, especially in cases of theft, poaching and the like. A lad of about sixteen who was a near neighbour of mine, was sentenced to six weeks hard labour at the Linton Petty Sessions for stealing a small quantity of oats from a farm barn – it was his first and only appearance in a court of law. It was a terrible blow to his family, and especially to his father, one of the nicest and most God-fearing men I have ever known. In another case a man of good character in a neighbouring parish, inadvertently pulled out a wooden stake from the hedge as he walked along the road – for this offence he was sent to prison for three weeks by the Linton magistrates. A girl of twelve years of age, attending the Sunday afternoon children’s service at Sawston Church, broke a branch of a weeping lime tree in the churchyard before the service started, by swinging on the branch to and fro from the top of an altar tombstone. The Churchwardens prosecuted the child at the Linton court, where she was fined and severely admonished and threatened with heavier punishment for any further misdemeanour.
Lads of the village regularly played ‘pitch and toss’ with halfpennies at a shady corner under the tree where the footpath to Pampisford Wych meets the Pampisford boundary, one of the party keeping ‘cave’; despite this precaution the policeman on more than one occasion outwitted them by creeping up unawares along the woodland belt from Hayfield Planten. Nowadays much less healthy forms of gambling and for far heavier stakes proceed with no interruption. Loitering in the street by boys and lads was an offence in the eyes of the parish officers and of the policeman, Sergeant Baker, who wielded his heavy cane across a boy’s buttocks on the slightest provocation, as for example, if he caught a boy gazing too intently into a shop window. The mere sight of the sergeant’s burly form striding through the High Street, swinging his cane in the true Aldershot style, was sufficient to clear the street of every boy in double quick time. On one occasion the sergeant caught the vicar, Charles Crump, riding his tricycle on the footpath (there were no kerbs in those days and the road was several inches deep in mud). It was with considerable relish that the sergeant prosecuted the vicar at the Linton sessions where he was fined seven shillings and sixpence and costs.
Drunkenness in itself was not an offence against the law provided there was no disorderly or unseemly behaviour. I can recall two highly respectable men whom I seldom, if ever, saw sober. They set off for work at the local brewery in the early hours before I was out and about, and invariably reeled or rolled home in the early evening. The brewery employees in those days consumed enormous quantities of beer, but I refrain from quoting actual figures, as many readers would probably consider them grossly exaggerated.
Friday was pay-day throughout the village and on Friday evenings after evensong I often remained for some time opposite the ‘Queen’s Head’ to watch at a safe distance the ‘drunk and incapables’ being either pushed out or thrown out by the landlord, a powerfully built old soldier. But the week of the year for heavy drinking and letting rip in general was feast-week, commencing Easter Monday. What Sawstonian who lived through the eighties and nineties could ever forget the intense excitement, the noise and the bustle, and the uproarious jollity of the scene around the Cross at the foot of Church Lane, especially after dark – the coconut shies at three balls a penny, which only the strongest arm could throw effectively, the swaggering figure of Charlie Morgan swinging his mighty hammer, the heavy concussion as it struck home, the ring of the bell as the topmost target was reached and his raucous shout of “Now, m’lads, try your strength!” – the hissing and spluttering of the oil-flares, the shouting and screaming of the girls as their partners swung the boats high into the air, and not far away the cheery voice of Dick Morley, the fishmonger, inviting you to “fill your bellies” with whelks and cockles at halfpenny a plate – “all good grub” – very unrefined but very English.
After my father’s death in 1892, my mother was left with five children, the youngest a baby in arms and the eldest a boy of twelve who, on his own responsibility started work as a ‘donkey boy’ on the Mill Farm at half a crown a week, and what was of even greater importance to him, he found eggs to suck around the farm and milk to drink, and in other ways obtained food to supplement the limited home supply. There followed many lean years but we were a united and happy family, envying no-one and having more than our fair share of Victorian pride in pretending to be far better off than we really were. We were carefully taught by my mother to encourage people, especially our immediate neighbours, in this belief. On the face of it our position was desperate but my mother, and father too, were always deeply conscious of God’s protecting care and guidance, and shared regularly in the sacramental life of the Church. It was her complete trust in the Divine Grace which enabled my mother to overcome many difficulties seemingly insurmountable – that and her own indomitable courage. Nevertheless it is harrowing even in retrospect to ponder upon the ten drab and dreary years of servitude for her which followed – years of labour and toil, relieved to some extent by the friendship and consolation of others who were equally unfortunate.
The year 1894 brought a great change in my life. In that year County Minor Scholarships were awarded for the first time in Cambridgeshire, enabling boys from elementary schools to receive a secondary education at the Perse Grammar School. In the early summer of 1894 John Falkner instructed me to let my mother know that I was to sit for an examination on the following day. Neither she nor I knew what this signified. Hence it came about that with one other boy from Sawston began a Public School career. Eight scholarships in all were awarded and their value was the bare minimum – a free railway warrant and the L.E.A. paid the school fees. I spent five years and a term at the school, in many ways dreary and comfortless years, for ‘technical scholars’ as we were described in the school lists, were not welcomed. Every county scholar was placed in the ‘Commercial’ department, and a good deal of the teaching on this side was inefficient, several of the staff being undergraduates with indifferent qualifications earning their small salaries as teachers with which to pay their college fees and other expenses. The brains on the school staff, with a few exceptions were confined to the Classical and Mathematical departments, and among my happy recollections were periods spent with Classical IV listening with dim comprehension to the Second Master, R. R. Conway, construing the Alcestis of Euripides or Horace’s Odes. I spent whole terms in the chemical laboratory doing so-called chemical analysis which consisted almost entirely in mixing and mucking about with reagents and solutions in test tubes, being left very much to my own devices, or filling page after page with extracts from Newth’s ‘Theoretical Inorganic Chemistry’ as dictated from the text book by the science master. Science teaching in many schools during the ‘test-tube ‘ era was dull and uninspired. The former science master, J. J. Widdicombe, a most able teacher and science lecturer, had unfortunately left to take up a University appointment at the School of Agriculture. The top form at the Commercial side was VA, and the form master used to take us in French translation, the book in that year being ‘Picciola’. By the master’s hand lay the open ‘crib’ and with his right hand he entered up school accounts or some other secretarial matter in connection with school management; meanwhile we translated as best we could. The master appeared to know little or nothing about the language. The mathematical knowledge of the staff on the Commercial side was little higher than Senior Local standards. To the end of my days at the Perse, the Headmaster, H. C. Barnes-Lawrence, remained an almost complete stranger to me; I do not recall that I ever had even a momentary conversation with him although on several occasions I received prizes at his hands at the annual prize-givings. The Second Master, R. R. Conway, discovered that I could sing (for many years I had been a chorister at the Parish Church under the choirmaster, the late Fred Dewberry, formerly the Cambridge Borough Organist) and he taught me Dibdin’s song ‘A tight little Island’ which I sang at one of the prize-givings, Conway threatening to knock my head off if I pronounced island as if it were spelt ‘islund’. I also played the part of “Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme”.
Even during the most severe wintry weather boys were not allowed to stay in school during the break for dinner, except the very few who had school dinner with the headmaster, which I could not afford. On such days I roamed around the streets seeking shelter; long after I was fifteen the officials turned me out of the Free Library near Peas Hill as being under age and often I have slunk for shelter into the Museums of Classical Archaeology in St. Mary’s Lane, where I was able to hide away for a short while before afternoon school opened.
The school janitor was old, grey-whiskered and always disgruntled. He thoroughly disliked boys and we reciprocated this feeling. The morning train for Cambridge left Shelford at 8.38 and we had little time to spare to reach school by the time the clock at the Catholic Church opposite the school had finished striking the hour, but nothing gave Coates, the sour-faced janitor greater pleasure than to slam the school door in our faces. During my time the numbers at the school dropped ominously until the appointment of Dr. Rouse, in whose day the school deservedly achieved a world-wide reputation. The direct method of teaching the Classics and modern languages which he introduced, became a recognised model of in schemes of educational reform, for besides its intrinsic value, what was perhaps of greater importance was the extremely happy relationship between master and pupil which it engendered. Under the new method, the pupil was not only the recipient but also a participator with the master in a mutual exchange of ideas communicated verbally from the one to the other.
The Perse authorities in my time pooh-poohed outside examinations except those for university scholarships, and it was the village schoolmaster, John Falkner, who suggested to Barnes-Lawrence that it might be beneficial for me to take the Senior Local Examination. I was allowed to do so but I had to make my own arrangements, select the subjects which I should take, and prepare for the examination by private study, so for several months I sat alone in the school hall and was completely ignored by the teaching staff. One of the subjects I selected was ‘The Book of Common Prayer’, much of which, including the Church Catechism, the Collects, the Psalms and the liturgies I knew by heart after long acquaintance as a chorister and Sunday School scholar. On one occasion just before the examination I asked the VA form master for help in the solution of a problem in geometrical progression. He looked at it and with an apologetic air advised me to re-read the explanatory pages preceding the exercises once or twice carefully, and assured me that my difficulties would be removed. Poor fellow, he did his best for me, but it is strange that he did not refer me to Young, in a room above the gallery, the master of the Mathematical Scholarship form, and a former highly placed Wrangler. On the strength of obtaining Third Class Honours in the 1899 examination – a very modest achievement, but strange to relate, the only success in honours from the Cambridge centre for that particular examination – I was awarded a County Major Scholarship at the University Department of Agriculture, of the value of £25 per annum. My Senior Local success brought no comment from any member of the staff, but today, forty five years later, I can still recall the kindly and smiling congratulations of H. P. Cooke, at that time the head of the school, and then as now a distinguished classical scholar.
For two years after leaving the Perse, I attended the School of Agriculture in Downing Street, so that for eight years I travelled to and from Cambridge day by day and except for the rail journey between Shelford and Cambridge went everywhere on foot. Many times have I walked to Shelford station, trained to Cambridge and walked from the station to Downing Street where the morning was spent in the laboratories or lecture rooms; in the afternoon after a very thin and stale pocket lunch which I had taken with me from home, walked to the university farm at Impington, followed later by the long walk back to the station and then the final trudge home from the station to New Road. They were long, weary and hungry days. (Editor’s note: Traviss’s daily journeys involved a total of 8 miles a day on foot, 6 days a week. 48 miles a week. Say 48 weeks x 48 = 2304 miles a year. So in 8 years he walked 18,432 miles – equivalent to 2-1/2 times around the earth at the equator. This was the price he paid for academic success!).
In January 1895, on more than one occasion I skated to Shelford along the High Road, except up Huckeridge Hill and the rise just beyond the turn-pike cottage at Stapleford. An extremely heavy fall of snow had been followed by a quick but brief thaw, followed by severe frost for several weeks and the road was covered inches deep with ice. Occasionally a lift home came my way – Jim Runham, an out-rider and skin buyer for the Langford Arch tannery always picked me up. So too, did farmer Allen travelling from his farm at Dernford to Duxford. I always wanted to say to him but never did say, “No, thanks, I’d rather walk!” for he rode in a shallow-bodied trap at a fearsome speed which never slackened down Huckeridge Hill, He used to bend well forward over the reins, his hunched up figure rocking from side to side, and as he chatted away to me his lean bearded face under a broad-brimmed bowler hat was wreathed in smiles. I used to sis tight holding my breath hard but not for long, for he quickly covered that mile and a bit to New Road corner. We often had the opportunity of climbing up on the wagons returning with empties to Pampisford brewery and there was seldom need to ask permission, the driver at this stage of his journey being fast asleep. Another driver who had a soft spot in his heart for any school-boy on the road was Alf Webb, a bluff and breezy out-rider, but he was usually nodding peacefully on the high driving seat of the oil van, with a sprightly pair of horses in complete charge cantering swiftly along the last few miles of the homeward stretch to Crampton’s factory. For many years Jim Stock, a paper mill employee, regularly walked from his home in New Road to the New Theatre, Cambridge, as it was called during the management of W.B. Redfern, for the Saturday matinee, setting out from his home about 12.30 p.m. After the show he spent 4-1/2d for his tea, and then in a happy and contented frame of mind walked back. John Falkner when he was long past fifty years of age walked to Cambridge and back on Saturdays during the spring and winter months, to keep fit as he used to tell me.
These recollections would be incomplete and to some degree misleading if I did not emphasise that during my childhood and adolescence the church exerted an almost all-engrossing influence on my life. My experience in this respect was not in anyway unusual, for there were many Sawston people of my generation who could tell a similar story in all essentials. At the age of eight I joined the church choir as a probationer, serving in that capacity for two years before being admitted as a full chorister and vested before the congregation – to quote the prayer used on such occasions, “I vest thee as a minister of the church. See that thou so serve God and sing his praises here below……” From that time, 1892, until I left the village ten years later, the church and all it stood for in faith and practice became a dominant force in my life. In my mother’s opinion nothing else mattered so very much, provided I was faithful in carrying out my duties as a church chorister. These duties, although at times onerous, even arduous, were never irksome or distasteful to me. The great dramas of the Incarnation and the Passion of our Lord as unfolded Sunday by Sunday and day by day in the liturgy, by sheer reiteration became deeply ingrained in my inner consciousness and the great seasons of the Church’s year – Christmas, Lent, Easter and Ascension-tide produced in me powerful and emotional reactions.
Throughout these years, with unfailing regularity, Sunday School instruction was given by teachers, over forty in number who once a fortnight attended a teachers’ class in the Church Institute. This instruction alternated with the Catechism services in Church, conducted by the Vicar and attended by all the senior scholars and their teachers, arranged in classes. On these occasions the church was packed. The system of teaching was by question, answer and bible reference after exposition and explanation in class by the Vicar. In consequence every lesson was of a substantial character, and to this day my sister, a Junior Sunday School Superintendent, finds use for my father’s lessons which he wrote down over fifty years ago. It was more than coincidence that from 1890 to 1903 there were crowded Sunday Schools and crowded congregations at the church services. The senior class of girls, whose ages ranged from 18 to 21 or even more, was in the charge of the vicar’s wife. Including infants there were over 500 scholars in the Sunday schools at that time. At the age of 18, when in the top class of the boys’ school, I was appointed a Sunday School teacher and this added considerably to my other church duties.
The choir trebles received small money awards for attendance and good conduct. The full award for the year was twelve shillings, and to qualify for the full amount over 300 attendances in the year were necessary, an average of about six attendances a week. For instance, for the six months ending December 1900, three trebles qualified for the full award by putting in the maximum number of attendances (151), were never late and had no bad mark against their names. Three others never missed an attendance but lost marks through being late or in one instance having a bad mark. The writer, who was transferred to the tenors during the year had 142 attendances, was ill three time and lat four times. It was easy to earn a bad mark – I was ‘rusticated’ from the choir on one occasion for three weeks for laughing during the service, and during this time I reverted to the probationers’ pew. The regular attendances were twice on Sundays (three on odd Sundays of the month), two weekday evensongs (Tuesdays and Fridays) and choir practice on Thursdays (7.15-9.00 pm). There were additional services on Saints’ days and High Festivals. A Saints’ day evensong on a Monday or Wednesday did not cancel out the Tuesday evensong.
On Ascension Day the first Eucharist was at 4.45 am., to allow the factory hands at the Paper Mill and other ‘work people’ to receive communion before beginning their long twelve-hour day’s work at 6.00 am. The Choral Eucharist followed at 6.45 am., always with a full choir, after which the choir enjoyed a hearty breakfast at the Church Institute. The full choir also attended the ‘three hours’ devotions on Good Friday, being supplied with light refreshment (including hot cross buns and ginger beer for the trebles) at the Institute shortly before service began. Throughout the year, on Sundays and at the weekday evensongs, the full psalm-settings for the day were sung to the chants as set in the Cathedral Psalter; consequently when I left the village in 1902 my knowledge of the Psalter in the Prayer Book version was well-nigh word perfect, and the many who regard the psalms as the greatest poetic composition in the English tongue, will consider that in this way if in no other I have been amply rewarded for the thirteen years I served as a Sawston chorister.
The choir also formed the nucleus of the Sawston Choral Society founded by the Vicar in 1886, shortly after his arrival in the parish. The conductor was Frederick Dewberry, Mus. Bac., and the accompanists, Helen Crampton, A.R.C.M. and W. H. Etchells. The practices were held in the Church School on Monday evenings from 7.15 to 9.00 pm. throughout the winter and spring and were followed by the annual concert about Easter time. Most of the better-known oratorios were performed by the society, professional soloists being engaged from the Royal College or Royal Academy of Music.
Bigoted, snobbish, hard-fisted folk though they may have been, the Victorians cannot be accused of half-heartedness in either their political, social or religious attachments. DUTY loomed large in all forms of instruction and codes of behaviour. In the day school, in church and in the home we were taught that the duties of punctuality, regularity, obedience, perseverance, courtesy, honesty were also primary virtues. Modern education in our schools covers a wider and more attractive field and brings out more readily and effectively a child’s latent abilities, and it has other advantages over the older and severer code of a past generation. Nevertheless it should be remembered that education is also concerned with the building of character in which we as Britishers always give pride of place to the sterling qualities of courage and fortitude.
“If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the will which says to them ‘Hold on’”
It is just this characteristic ‘hardness’ of the Public School system of education which is often conspicuously lacking in our day, and primary and secondary schools at the present time.
At the age of sixteen I became a member of the Young Men’s Communicants Guild, about forty in number which met once a month at the Church Institute under the leadership of James Hedding, a churchwarden and an earnest and devout churchman. On the Sundays following these meetings the Guild attended a corporate communion service. There was a similar organisation for girls and young women under the direction of the Vicar and his wife. The church also organised highly successful cricket and football clubs (senior and junior), indoor recreation, smoking concerts, dramatic performances, etc. at the institute, and dances and social gatherings at the festive seasons of the Church’s year in the church school. The ‘socials’ were a tremendous success to which every church worker was invited – teachers, choristers, bell-ringers, sidesmen and voluntary and unpaid workers of all kinds. ‘District visiting’ was another important feature of the Church’s social organisation. Visitors kept in touch with the mothers of families and others whose duties prevented them from sharing to the full in the corporate life of the church, its worship and its social services.
In short , the Church touched the life of its pro-fessing members at almost every point. |The source and inspiration of these manifold activities was the parish priest, Charles Edward Crump, formerly of Queens’ College Cambridge and Ely Theological College , a man of fiery enthusiasm, overwhelming energy, and having an extraordinary flare for organization
In 1902 I was appointed science master at Soham Grammar School, leaving there a year later to take up an appointment under the Colonial Office in Jamaica, for which I had been recommended by professor T. B. Wood. At Soham I spent a very busy but very happy year under W. H. Mould, a Headmaster who was well –beloved by scholars and staff alike, whose rare old –world courtesy recalled the exquisite manners of a forgotten generation. I was responsible for the science teaching which included a course in elementary agricultural science. It had been the idea of Austin Keen, the Secretary for Education, to develop the school as the rural science secondary school of the county. The venture was not a success and little wonder, for the only contribution from the L.E.A. to that end was the appointment of myself, a lad of 20 as science master at the modest salary of £60 a year, resident, and inclusive of all duties. These duties, none of which seemed irksome to me were manifold, and I enjoyed no ‘free periods’ considered nowadays so essential for a schoolmaster’s well-being. On Saturday afternoons I was in charge of a class in elementary science for teachers from remote fen districts, who were unable to get into Cambridge for the necessary instruction. On Sunday mornings and evenings I walked in procession with the boarders, two by two, to the services in the parish church, on which occasions to be properly dressed I had to wear a topper. On Sunday afternoons I took the senior Sunday School class for boys in a large farm barn. I was also games master and I recall the elation at our defeat of the Soham Town XI at cricket in the summer of 1903. One week in every three I was ‘duty’ master which meant getting up at 6.00 am and then getting the boys up at half past 6 followed by an inspection of teeth and finger-nails to ensure that the boys were spick and span for the hour’s ‘preparation’ before breakfast under the master’s supervision. The long day ended with ‘lights out’ in the dormitory at bed-time.
Between 1906, when I was compelled through ill health to resign from the Jamaican appointment, and 1915 I often followed whither whim or fancy led, but these are reminiscences mainly concerning Sawston. The early summer of 1914 found me at Hanley Castle Grammar School in the heart of most lovely Worcestershire country; the school was then the recognised rural science secondary school for the county. In November 1915 I resigned at a moment’s notice and set out for London by the first train of the day from Malvern, hoping on arrival to be accepted as a cadet in the Inns of Court Officer Training Corps. I had been in correspondence with the adjutant and was acting to a certain extent under his instructions. Anyhow the idea of not being accepted had never occurred to me. At Lincoln’s Inn I found myself one of a thousand men or more lining up for interview – candidates were swarming in and ten per cent only were being accepted, the youngest, fittest and most eligible. One question put to me by the board of selectors, who were strictly regimental and coldly unsympathetic in manner, was “What was your father?” Detecting the snobbery implied in the question I answered quick and pat on the spur of the moment, “Factory Manager”. However they turned me down advising me to wait for the commission in the Cambridgeshire Territorials for which the squire, Denys Huddleston, had kindly recommended me on a very slight acquaintance. After interviewing the Colonel at Newmarket my name appeared very low on a long waiting list. The same question was put to a friend of mine, a first rate soldier with a fine war record as a commissioned officer. In reply he said “Do you want me or my father?” Quickly came the answer, “We want neither you nor your father”. At that time in the war the recruiting authorities were still very concerned about an applicant’s social standing. Two years later, men in the ranks from ‘blooded’ battalions were being urged to accept commissions and whether father was a duke or a dustman was of no consequence. I came away from the Law Courts that day almost distraught for I had burned my boats behind me. However, a few month afterwards I again stopped just opposite the Law Courts but on that occasion I was a Lance-Corporal on the extreme right of a service battalion of the Royal Fusiliers who had marched through the City with fixed bayonets, as was their proud privilege. Here at the City boundary we had halted to ‘unfix’ and I had to take three paces forward – or was it six? Surely no cadet of the ‘Devil’s Own’ was ever a prouder man than I was that day, setting the time for the ‘unfix’ in the middle of Fleet Street.
A few months of service in the firing line in France in the spring and summer of 1916 taught me quite a lot, among other things that hatred of the German (in which, in my own case, no instruction had been necessary) considerably evaporated when you and he lay not many yards apart for months on end in a dirty and lousy condition when the whine of a bullet or the hiss as it snipped the tops of the sand-bags, or the crump of the trench-mortar were constant reminders that death was waiting round the corner. I learnt too that romance has little part in modern warfare – war, be it emphasised, not the spit and polish soldiering of peacetime or the sheltered life of a base-wallah. I recall for instance the shocking mutilation of a comrade, a senior N.C.O. and a splendid soldier, whose brains were shattered by a German shell fired several miles away, and I remember also only too well the terrible anguish of his younger brother who had witnessed the dreadful scene. War proved also to be perhaps the most clarifying and the most levelling of all experiences – under constant shell-fire conventional standards of conduct and class distinction go tumbling down and human nature is revealed in all its stark and primitive nakedness. One of the most painful events in my own experience occurred in a front line fire-bay during a period of heavy shelling – one or two men had been hit when a young and upstanding sergeant suddenly dropped from sheer funk, face downwards on the duckboards, whining pitifully and slobbering in utter terror. He was mercifully removed next day and the battalion knew him no more.
On Armistice Day, 1918 the only viciously-minded man I met was the vicar of a quiet country parish in the West Riding, a man of over seventy who from the depths of a very comfortable armchair, and between deep puffs of John Cotton tobacco, was loudly demanding the immediate advance of the British Army on Berlin.
Forty Sawston men fell in the campaign, and the majority were killed in action in France. I knew most of them by sight, many of them personally and a number of them rather intimately. All of them were junior to me except Arthur Giggins, a regular soldier, and Harry Barker and Jack Samuel, who were my own age. Harry was at school with me under John Falkner and we played cricket and football together for Sawston St. Mary’s. His nickname was ‘Jumbo’ a suitable name for one who smiled and joked his way along. Sturdy and stockily built, many will remember him as a useful winger for the Church Institute Football Club.
Bert Coleman was also a schoolfellow with me under Falkner – a quiet and retiring boy; he won a minor county scholarship.
Arthur Edwardes was a handsome lad of charming disposition who was still at school when was broke out. As a pilot in the R. F. C. he crashed during training, and we were again reminded that “those whom the gods love die young”
Bill Gee, who fell early on in Flanders was a typical guardsman, business-like and to the point. I remember bidding him goodbye and good luck as he entrained at Whittlesford Station with Jack Barker and other reservists on the eve of the war. Who could ever forget dapper little Freddie Goodwin in his Sunday best with a flower and a sprig of maiden-hair in his buttonhole?
Sidney Hall was a tall, clear-skinned youth of genial disposition with a complexion a girl might envy.
Ronald Jennings had the qualities to be expected of an ‘old regular’ of the Rifle Brigade – handsome, dashing and upstanding with a masterful air. Wilfred, his younger brother, had a quiet, happy disposition. Harry Moulton was an only son whose ready smile reflected his happy outlook on life.
Sidney Parsons, quiet and unassuming, was born a few doors away from me in New Road – he lies in France in an unknown grave.
George Rickett and his brother Leonard, both of the Canadian Army, had emigrated to Canada shortly before the war. Leonard was quite a lad, beautifully built and of striking appearance.
Percy Runham was one of several ‘only sons’ in the list – a boy with bright brown eyes and immaculate appearance. As a sergeant in the King’s Own Royal Lancaster Regiment he was killed in France leading a bombing raid on the German lines.
Alfred Barker of the Lincolnshire Regiment was another tall, upright handsome lad who for many years drove one of Crampton’s oil vans.
I said goodbye to Eric Fortin for the last time in the early autumn of 1915 at Hanley Castle, Worcs. He was training at Malvern with a Birmingham City battalion of the Royal Warwickshire Regiment and he called to see me with two of his pals. All three lie across the channel. Eric’s chief concern in 1914 was the fear that the doctors would turn him down – he had had a nervous breakdown shortly before war broke out. On his last leave at his Hillside home he said goodbye to Herbert Reed at our garden gate. “Cheerio” said Herbert, “Here’s to our next meeting in Berlin”. Eric was mortally wounded at Arras in June 1916 while on patrol, and I heard of his death when I was in the trenches in front of Ploegsteert (Plug Street) Wood. Herbert, only a lad, fell in the bitter Passchendaele fighting in July 1917.
Alfred and Arthur Mackay were the twin sons of Stephen Mackay who with his brother Sam (a tough pair indeed) dug many wells for the houses along Hillside and elsewhere in the village.
Corporal Frank Mackay, cousin to Alfred and Arthur, was a smart soldier of very striking appearance. Their grandparents were Scots who came to this district about a century ago. Mackay is a famous fighting name in Scotland and the blood ran true in the strain that settled in Sawston.
Only dimly do I recall Percy Nunn, as a fair curly-haired schoolboy, the youngest son of Humphrey Nunn, the former well-known fast bowler and centre forward who also served during the war, in France with the Royal Engineers.
In December 1917, when serving at Lowestoft with a coast defence battalion of the Bedfordshire Regiment, I was sent to Norwich War Hospital suffering from a serious attack of pleurisy with effusion, where I remained for five months, at the end of which I was invalided out of the Army. The hospital commandant suggested that I should go into a sanatorium, but the implication of such a suggestion being obvious to me, I pointed out that the atmosphere of such a place would hinder rather than help in my recovery. After a few weeks at home, with the ware still raging and feeling uneasy and unsettled, I hurriedly decided to get in touch immediately with my scholastic agents, Gabbitas & Thring, and to resume teaching. A choice market at this time open to me, for school staffs had been almost denuded of fit and qualified teachers of military age. Early next morning by telegram, following my letter of application, three vacant science masterships were offered for my immediate acceptance; at York Grammar School, Christ’s Hospital and Giggleswick School. I accepted Giggleswick, considering that the open moorland air of the West Riding to be best suited to one in my condition.
I arrived at the school two days later at the beginning of the summer term, where I stayed for two years teaching chemistry throughout the school as my main subject. Giggleswick is s first-rate Public School in most bracing surroundings, and within a few miles of Gordals Scar, Halham Tarn, Ingleborough and the interesting pot-hole country. In the summer of 1920 I was appointed senior science master at Maidstone Grammar School. I also became cricket coach for the first eleven, and also produced the annual full-scale Shakespearian performances which lasted a whole week and included three matinees. These activities of a voluntary character after ordinary school hours expended too much of my energy, in six hectic but most enjoyable years under a headmaster of genius, Eric Percival Smith, who inspired both boys and masters to give of their best, and in no niggardly manner. In the summer of 1926 as might have been expected, chest trouble had again developed, and my life as a schoolmaster came to an end. I had resigned myself as I thought to the inevitable, but early on in 1928 after a long spell of complete rest in bed, the persistent temperature began to subside and finally to become normal again.
Slowly it dawned on me that after all there was still something in life for me to do, and for the past fourteen years it has been my privilege to serve the village, and in particular the church, in various honorary capacities and spheres of usefulness. At the same time I have had the opportunity of interesting myself in local history and folk-lore, which I have endeavoured to turn to good account.