Edward Johnston (1872-1944)

“…And because he and Johnston were such opposites in temperament – Gill being so fast-moving and direct, Johnston so diffident and so laborious, taking a whole term-time to describe the inscription on Trajan’s column before he even reached letter C – they got on well together, arguing and arguing, starting the succession of late-night discussions on very abstract topics such as Truth, Right, Faith and Dogma which was to continue for another twenty years or so. Intellectual conversations with chosen male companions (for Gill considered women were no good at abstract argument) were to go on till the small hours of the morning all Gill’s life.

Another enduring habit which began in those days in Lincoln’s Inn was the cult of dropping in, the easy workshop welcome. Again this was a part of the freemasonry of craftsmen. Edward Johnston was of course the key figure in his craft, the ipse scripsit of the calligraphic revival. Almost everyone of note in the world of Arts and Crafts scribes and illuminators had been, or was being, taught by Johnston. His chambers became a kind of social centre as well as a scriptorium, a lettering laboratory. His closest disciple Graily Hewitt, by profession a solicitor, lived in Lincoln’s Inn as well, and provided Johnston with the services of his own admirable laundress, Mrs Phelps.”

Fiona MacCarthy: Eric Gill (1989) Chapter Four: Lincoln’s Inn 1902-4

It’s a long way…

Pictured: The Twelve Bens or Twelve Pins (Irish: Na Beanna Beola; the peaks of Beola)

From the website of the Royal Albert Hall:

“The Festival of Remembrance, held in honour of those who have given their lives in the service of their country, has been marked at the Royal Albert Hall annually since 1923.

The Festival has been broadcast on BBC radio since 1927, and has become a popular televised event on BBC One each year.

The very first ‘Festival of Remembrance’ was called In Memory 1914-1918 – A Cenotaph In Sound, in aid of The British Legion, Field Marshal Earl Haig’s Appeal for Ex-Service Men of all Ranks, and was held on 11 November 1923. A royal delegate including HRH The Prince of Wales was in attendance to hear John Foulds’ new composition, A World Requiem: A Cenotaph in Sound, performed by a chorus and orchestra.

Foulds’ World Requiem was was performed at each successive annual concert until 1926, advertised as ‘a festival of faith, not of victory’.

In 1927 the concert was simply renamed the ‘Remembrance Festival’ and featured community songs including Pack up Your Troubles, Take Me Back to Dear Old Blighty, and Tipperary. The event ended with a service that has now become familiar, featuring The Last Post and ending in God Save the King/Queen.”

Helen Brown wrote in the Financial Times of 29/5/17:

“You’ve come a long way,” reads the sign on Ireland’s N24 as you enter Tipperary — a nod to the song that made the town famous during the first world war.

The myth is that “It’s a Long Way to Tipperary” was written solely by music hall entertainer Jack Judge in January 1912. Judge, a former fishmonger, liked to boast of how a fellow entertainer bet five shillings that he couldn’t compose and sing a new song in 24 hours. By the following night, Judge claimed to have knocked out the new song and incorporated it into his act.

But it now seems more likely that the Worcestershire-born Judge had simply tinkered with an older number (about a homesick Irish lad writing home to his sweetheart from London) called “It’s a Long Way to Connemara” that he had co-written in 1909 with Harry Williams, whose family ran a pub in Warwickshire. Described by his great niece, Meg Pybus, as “a sensitive and sickly man”, Williams was a poet and multi-instrumentalist, confined to a wheelchair after falling down the cellar stairs as a child.

Judge swapped Connemara for Tipperary because that was where his grandparents came from*.By the end of the week the song had become the centrepiece of his act; he sold the publishing rights to Bert Feldman, who pepped it up with a brisk marching beat and credited both Judge and Williams as songwriters.”

*Connemara lies in the territory of Iar Connacht, “West Connacht,” within the portion of County Galway west of Lough Corrib, and was traditionally divided into North Connemara and South Connemara. The mountains of the Twelve Bens and the Owenglin River, which flows into the sea at An Clochán / Clifden, marked the boundary between the two parts. Connemara is bounded on the west, south and north by the Atlantic Ocean.

Poppy Factory

From Historic England entry:

“The Poppy Factory, originally established by The Disabled Society in 1922 to make poppies for the second British Legion poppy appeal and staffed entirely by disabled ex-servicemen, moved from the Old Kent Road in the heart of working class South London to new premises on land in leafier Richmond in 1925. Aided by the Legion, this move made it possible to build flats to house the most severely disabled workers close to the factory. ‘It was not desired to seclude the men in the heart of the country’, reported the British Legion Journal (June 1925, p. 403). The Prince of Wales laid the foundation stone for Howson Terrace, 40-126 Petersham Road, Richmond in 1926. The brick terrace is in a rather severe Arts and Crafts style with reliefs on the facade showing poppy wreaths. The brickwork and mortar are of poor quality, probably indicative of the post-war shortages of material and labour.

The terrace provided flats with one, two or three bedrooms on two floors, the larger flats being needed because the Poppy Factory sought to employ men with dependents. Workers had to be assessed as at least 80 per cent disabled but were expected to cope without special adaptations. A residents’ bowling green and washing lines for the upstairs flats were provided, but there were no bathrooms or lifts. Subsequently other two storey-blocks were added behind the terrace, some bearing donation plaques including one from Ceylon (Sri Lanka). In 1929, Princess Mary laid the foundation stone for a further block of flats facing onto Richmond Hill (nos. 45-67). This bears a plaque showing a hand holding up a Cross of Remembrance with poppies and also a carved lion’s head, symbol of the British Legion.”

“In Flanders fields the poppies blow”

Pictured: the Poppy Factory, Petersham Rd, Richmond.

From the website of the Poetry Foundation:

“Born in Guelph, Ontario, Canadian poet, soldier, and physician John McCrae earned his undergraduate and medical degrees at the University of Toronto, where he received the Gold Medal. As a physician, he worked at Toronto General Hospital, Johns Hopkins Hospital, McGill University, the Royal Alexandra Hospital for Infectious Diseases, Montreal General Hospital, and the Royal Victoria Hospital in Montreal. He served in the Boer War in South Africa as an artillery subaltern in the Canadian Contingent from 1899 to 1900, was promoted to the rank of major in 1904, and reenlisted in the First Canadian Contingent soon after the start of World War I. McCrae became a member of the Royal College of Surgeons and was the first Canadian to be appointed consulting surgeon to the British Army.

 McCrae’s well-known poem “In Flanders Fields” memorializes the April 1915 battle in Belgium’s Ypres salient. For 17 days, McCrae tended those injured in the battle. The poem, written after the death of a close friend, was first published in Punch magazine and led to the adoption of the poppy as the Flower of Remembrance for the British and Commonwealth war dead. McCrae wrote several medical textbooks during his life, and his poetry was posthumously gathered into the collection In Flanders Fields and Other Poems (1919).

 In 1915, McCrae was transferred to Boulogne No.3 General Hospital to oversee medicine. He worked there until his pneumonia-related death on January 28, 1918, at the age of 45. McCrae was buried with full military honors in Wimereux Cemetery near Boulogne, France. His family home in Guelph is preserved as a museum, and the main street in Wimereux is now named Rue McCrae.”

“to find the ordinary a matrix for the extraordinary.”*

*John T Napier on the poetic ability of Robert Frost (1874-1963), who wrote Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening, below, in 1923. Ezra Pound said of Frost: “This man has the good sense to speak naturally and to paint the thing, the thing as he sees it.”.

Whose woods these are I think I know.   

His house is in the village though;   

He will not see me stopping here   

To watch his woods fill up with snow./

My little horse must think it queer   

To stop without a farmhouse near   

Between the woods and frozen lake   

The darkest evening of the year./

He gives his harness bells a shake   

To ask if there is some mistake.   

The only other sound’s the sweep   

Of easy wind and downy flake./

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,   

But I have promises to keep,   

And miles to go before I sleep,   

And miles to go before I sleep./

“The many ways I’ve tried…”*

*line from The Long and Winding Road: Lennon-McCartney (1970)

Sir Brian Leon Barder was a British diplomat, author, blogger and civil liberties advocate. Although he died on 19th September, 2017, you can still consult his website (last post on his blog dated 2nd August, 2017). He lived, with his wife Jane, in Earlsfield.

Sir Brian noted on his site:

“A few years ago one such retired diplomat, Malcolm McBain, on his own initiative but with the encouragement of the Foreign & Commonwealth Office, launched a British diplomatic oral history programme designed to capture the recollections of a wide range of retired diplomats, from the grey knights who formerly commanded the mighty embassies in Paris, Washington, Bonn or Berlin and Rome, down to the (perhaps less discreet) smaller fry from the more obscure diplomatic missions in faraway countries of whose peoples and their problems we may know nothing but on which they once possessed precious expertise.  Their recorded recollections and opinions not only provide often fascinating insights into the real background to great events as witnessed by people who played an active part in shaping them:  they also frequently paint a unique and authentic picture of what diplomatic life at different levels is really like, something which historians yearn for — and which the BDOHP provides entirely free of charge.”

Malcolm McBain has uploaded the record of an interview conducted with Sir Percy Cradock (26 October 1923 – 22 January 2010). He was a British diplomat, civil servant and sinologist who served as British Ambassador to the People’s Republic of China from 1978 to 1983, playing a significant role in the Sino-British negotiations which led up to the signing of the Sino-British Joint Declaration in 1984.

He was enlisted in the Royal Air Force during the Second World War. After the war, he entered St John’s College, Cambridge, being the first Cradock to enter university in his family history, and earning double starred Firsts in Law and English. From Cambridge he also developed his interest in sinology, by appreciating the works of Chinese and Japanese literature translated by Arthur Waley.

(A recent evaluation called Waley “the great transmitter of the high literary cultures of China and Japan to the English-reading general public; the ambassador from East to West in the first half of the 20th century”, and went on to say that he was “self-taught, but reached remarkable levels of fluency, even erudition, in both languages. It was a unique achievement, possible (as he himself later noted) only in that time, and unlikely to be repeated.”)

Cradock married Birthe Marie Dyrlund, a staffer of the Foreign Office, in 1953.

In his later years, he lived with her in East Twickenham, spending much of the time writing books on the Sino-British negotiations and realpolitik diplomacy. He suffered from ill health and died in London on 22 January 2010, aged 86. His funeral took place at St Mary’s Church, Twickenham, on 6 February 2010. Lady Cradock died in September 2016.

The road from East Twickenham to Marble Hill performs an S shape. Ahead, in the photograph above, the way will curve left round a church, then soon sharply to the right round a pub (located at 277-279, Richmond Road). If you follow it, you will pass the former home of Sir Percy and Lady Cradock at no. 303, Richmond Road, before reaching that pub – which, as it happens, is known as The Rising Sun.

“Perversity Raised to a Principle”*

*Review of Fiona MacCarthy’s Eric Gill (1989)

(Above: 55 Broadway, London SW1, built 1929, which straddles St James’s Park Underground Station. Integrity International Group have recently taken a 150 year lease from Transport for London on the property. At the presentation ceremony of an architecture award for the building in 1931, Frank Pick commented on the height, noting that “in fact, it goes so high that it has a 9th floor, which we cannot use because the London County Council has decided that it is unsafe for us to live there . But our architects insisted there should be a 9th floor, because the proportions of the building required it, and we were complacent clients, so it was built .”)

*“This is a very odd book. One doesn’t quite know whether to admire ”Eric Gill: A Lover’s Quest for Art and God” for its generosity and broadmindedness or to inveigh against it for its moral blindness. Actually there’s nothing wrong with Fiona MacCarthy’s powers of perception. Blindness isn’t exactly the word one wants; her view is morally blank. What makes it exceedingly odd is that Eric Gill, the eccentric British artist and craftsman, was a scoundrel (that’s one very mild way of putting it, I think; one might also call him a poseur, a fraud and a pervert). And his biographer, whose prose style is delightful and fastidious, is capable of astonishment but not, apparently, of moral outrage. She makes no judgments – unless choosing to write a nonjudgmental book about such a man as Eric Gill can in itself be construed as approbative. It’s troubling.” (The late) Barbara Grizzuti Harrison, in New York Times of 7/5/1989

“What is striking is that once the immediate commotion over Gill’s sexual aberrations had died down, there was a new surge of interest in his work. The 1992 retrospective at the Barbican finally demolished the patronising view of Gill as a Catholic sculptor, setting him in the mainstream of modern British art. The monumental architectural carvings made in Gill’s Pigotts period in the 1930s, such familiar elements in the London street scene that they were in danger of being overlooked, emerged with a new clarity. Prospero and Ariel outside the BBC building in Portland Place; the large-scale East Wind sculpture that hovers over St James’s Underground station: these are weirdly wonderful examples of Gill’s work.” Fiona MacCarthy, in The Guardian: 22/7/2006

“For me, though, the biggest question remains unanswered: why do this show at all? The darknesses in Gill’s life have been public knowledge for almost three decades now, ever since Fiona MacCarthy published her brilliant and wonderfully vivid life of the artist in 1989. It is not as though this information is secret. Why force it on visitors? What, in the end, does (Nathaniel) Hepburn hope to achieve by doing so? Again, he comes back to censorship: “I don’t want to censor which works we show because we don’t have the confidence of language to be able to interpret them properly.” But there is also the question of “responsibility” to be considered. “Museums have a duty to talk about difficult issues,” he says. “They are a place where society can think. There is some public benefit in organisations like ours not turning a blind eye to abuse. We are very well aware that certain parts of our audience are not going to want to look at this exhibition. But if we lose visitors for this period, so be it. We hope they come back.” ”

Rachel Cooke, in The Observer 9/4/2017, on Eric Gill:The Body at Ditchling Museum of Art & Craft

Kingston Bridge

From Historic England entry:

“1825-28, by Edward Lapidge. Opened by the Duchess of Clarence (later Queen Adelaide). Portland stone. 5 rusticated arches, the centre one with an armorial keystone; bold cornice and balustraded parapet. Semi-circular cutwaters carry flat panelled piers surmounted by little balcony projections breaking forward from the balustrade. Widened in 1914. One original cast iron lamp standard remains. (Half is in the Borough of Richmond-on-Thames).”

Lapidge designed a number of churches: St John, Hampton Wick (1829–30), St Mary, Hampton (1829–31), and St Andrew’s Church, Ham (1830–1) all of brick, in the Gothic style, and St Peter’s, Hammersmith in a Greek Ionic style, in brick finished with Bath stone dressings. The Gentleman’s Magazine described St Peter’s as “a very fair specimen of modern Grecian architecture”, adding that “the tower has considerable merit. The design is novel and pleasing, and the proportions are harmonious. The interior is however chaste and formal, displaying even a presbyterian nakedness”. Lapidge himself donated the site of the church at Hampton Wick. As well as these buildings on the west side of London he built St James, Radcliffe (1837–8), in the East End, in the Early English style, in brick with stone dressing.

(The parish church of Ratcliffe, St. James in Butcher Row, was built in 1838 and served the area until 1951 (it was damaged during the Second World War), when the parish was merged with St. Paul, Shadwell. In 1948 the church site became (and remains) the East London home of the Royal Foundation of St. Katharine.)

Further afield he built the church of St John in the park of Doddington Hall, Cheshire (1837).”

Lapidge (1779-1860) lived at The Grove, 24 Lower Teddington Road, Hampton Wick. His grave is in the churchyard of St Mary’s, Hampton:

From Wikipedia:

“The church is briefly mentioned in Jerome K Jerome’s 1889 comic novel, Three Men in a Boat.

“Harris wanted to get out at Hampton Church, to go and see Mrs. Thomas’s tomb.

“Who is Mrs. Thomas?” I asked.

“How should I know?” replied Harris. “She’s a lady that’s got a funny tomb, and I want to see it.” ”

While the church does contain a memorial to Susanna Thomas (d.1731) on the east wall of the south aisle, Paul Goldsack, in his book River Thames: In the Footsteps of the Famous, states there is little that is funny, or even remarkable about it. However, the tomb is floridly classical, with partly draped female figures which may have surprised some Victorians and amused others, including J K Jerome himself. Hence the tomb is “funny” in both senses, of being unusual as well as entertaining.”

Spots of Time

Pictured: Dove Cottage, on the edge of Grasmere, where William Wordsworth lived with his sister from December 1799 – May 1808. He wrote parts of The Prelude during his time here.

There are in our existence spots of time,
That with distinct pre-eminence retain
A renovating virtue, whence, depressed
By false opinion and contentious thought,
Or aught of heavier or more deadly weight,
In trivial occupations, and the round
Of ordinary intercourse, our minds
Are nourished and invisibly repaired;
A virtue, by which pleasure is enhanced,
That penetrates, enables us to mount,
When high, more high, and lifts us up when fallen

– William Wordsworth, The Prelude. Book 12. 208-218 (1850 edition)


Opening lines of Blackbird (1968) by Lennon-McCartney:

Blackbird singing in the dead of night

Take these broken wings and learn to fly

All your life

You were only waiting for this moment to arise

Closing stanza of Adlestrop (1917) by Edward Thomas:

And for that minute a blackbird sang

Close by, and round him, mistier,

Farther and farther, all the birds

Of Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire.