Monday, 21 May 2012

Uppingham-by-the-Sea ... the narrative draws to a conclusion ...

In the year 1877 ... when boys were still alive ...

... before that though the 1876 calendar had to write itself to a close into this little narrative, so onward we go ....
Ford Maddox Brown's Navvy (USA)
depicted "The Work" 1865

Ø September 15th and 16th dawned – the school returned filling old quarters and several additional houses.

The medical officer and the ready pickaxe of “Sanitary Tom” (as the boys called the navvy who was his stout ally), had been at work on sanitation arrangements.

(At Uppingham the same work started on September 14th – the sanitation had finally been called out as the fever’s incubator).

Ø The term opened smilingly .... just five weeks later – a case of scarlet fever occurred, followed by half-a-dozen more, ... their prosperity staggered under the ‘what next’ syndrome ...

-         Would it spread to the village, across the school - could they stay - and many other challenging thoughts ... and what of other infections?

-         They had good scientific advice on the spot, from the medical officer – who was advised out of Oxford, so no time was lost in stamping out the plague ... by ... page 28 describes the plan:

-         War is not made with rose-water, and fever germs can be exterminated, it seems, by nothing less exasperatingly unsavoury than carbolic acid, an agency which was laid on without any ruth.

"A Girl with a Watering Can" -
Pierre-August Renoir 1876

Grumblers were offered the alternative of being smoked with sulphur.  Some complained of sore throats, contracted, they said, from the fumes of the disinfectant, and declared that the remedy, like the vaccination, was only a mitigated form of the disorder.

The landlords of our studies looked on with irresolute wonder, when some of us sprinkled their floors with a potent decoction poured from watering-pots.

Most of them regarded it as a kind of magical rite into which it would not be seemly to inquire.

Probably the best disinfectant applied was the clear strong wind, which ten days after the first case succeeded the previous relaxing weather.
Pebbly Beach at Eastbourne

All windows and doors were ordered wide open for the free passage of the blast; and the boys were directed to bring down their rugs, great-coats, and dressing-gowns, and anything of the kind which might be supposed to harbour mischief, and spread them for purification on the pebbles of the beach.

It was thought the germ was probably caught in the railway – so excursions were discontinued for a time.

Worse would have occurred had not the villagers been ready to assist with the isolation and other necessary matters to curtail this outbreak.

Page 29 discusses the possibility of bullying due to confinement in the winter months ... however the advantage of self-governance prevailed ... old rules had to be relaxed – in general the result was all went well; of course wrong things were done at Borth as elsewhere, but their insignificance for the most part would provoke a smile.

As the term progressed, November set in with its early dark evenings – the school curriculum was rearranged – afternoon school began at sunset, the Debating and other societies met on half-holiday evenings, so the dark hours did not hang heavily, and the expected tedium of an Arctic winter was not experienced.

The term closed with a concert given in the Assembly Room at Aberystwith, repeated the next night in the Temperance Hall at popular prices.

The Old Boys returned to play the customary football match against the present school ... and were beaten 2-1; prizes, class-lists, and the Headmaster’s speech closed the day.

No mention was made for their return to Middle England or to the coast of Wales in the year 1877.

Sit down, and hear the last of our sea-sorrow
                             from “The Tempest”

Ø 22nd December, after inspection ... and in the face of Dr Acland’s (an Oxford consultant) report, the Trustees “deeply regret they cannot at present recall the school to Uppingham.”  So they went back to the sea.

The boys with sticks in 1876, were watched by boys named Bevan, in the year 1877 ...   ("ab-Evan" meaning son of Evan - Welsh origin)

The school returned in January ... for what would become the Farewell Term ...

Fewer masters’ families had remained ‘in camp’ ... some had gone to winter quarters at Aberystwith; some had already resettled at Uppingham.

A not so niggardly vegetable plot
Connection with home began to be retightened also by parochial and other common transactions, in which we took our share from a distance ...

... the deserted gardens at Uppingham did not waste their sweetness on the air ... a thin intermittent stream of their products found its way along the nine hours of railway through most of the year: flowers, fruit and vegetables ... were welcome by all, including dwellers in this somewhat austere tract where they did not grow or grew very niggardly.

Further details of “contraband” drew the attention of the London and North-Western Railway Company, whose officials called to account one of our servants for travelling with an excess of personal luggage ... the artless contrabandist, besides his own modest pack, had fourteen several hampers and boxes under his charge!  This was checked.

But there was a Post Office miscreant, who systematically staved in and pounded into such odd shapes the little tin boxes in which our rose-fanciers had their choice blooms sent them by post?  The Post Office disacknowledged, the school remonstrated – the criminal was stopped.

Business matters from home needed to be dealt with ... as parishioners and ratepayers.  Someone who, even bought a freehold of land, had clearly not despaired of their Rutlandshire.

This term’s life, with exceptions, continued much as before ... the round of work and play was much the same; the harriers were out again, football went on as before, till superseded by the “athletics,” ...

Ø On 7th March an athletics match against Shrewsbury School on their ground was held ... a battle drawn.

The difficulties encountered this term were the elements...

First off two new boys rambled forth and were missing by tea-time .. search parties were organised north and south ... they were found perched upon a rock up the cliff to escape the rising tide telling stories – unaware in the darkness the tide had ebbed, or to minimise their fears by staying put, thankfully blessed with a mild January night.

This was the sportive prelude of more serious troubles ...

Ø Monday 29th January – a servant was conveying the dinner of his master’s family from the hotel kitchen to Cambrian Terrace.

As he crossed the gusty street between them, the harpies of the storm swept the dinner from the dish, and rolled a prime joint over and over in the dust; a leg of mutton was following, but he caught it dexterously by the knuckle-end as it fell, and rescued so much from the wreck.

Borth - the storm did blow
Did the wind not blow?  For three days the sou’-wester had been heaping up the sea-water against the shores of Cardigan Bay.

People remembered with misgivings that an expected high tide coincided in time with the gale, and shook their heads significantly as they went to bed on that eve.

A storm wave is part of a system of aggression which the sea carries upon these coasts ...

Ø 30th January’s half light gloomed eerily ... the classes emerging from morning prayers, found the street between them and the Terrace threaded by a stream of salt water, which was pouring over the sea-wall ...

Before morning school was over the stream had become a river ...

... those who were well placed saw a memorable sight that morn, as the terrible white rollers came remorselessly in, sheeting the black cliff sides in the distance with columns of spouted foam ...

... then thundering on the low-sea wall, licking up or battening down the stakes of the palisades, and scattering apart and volleying before it the pebbles built in between them, the village street was heaped with the ruins of the barrier over which the waters swept victoriously into the level plain beyond:

          The feet had hardly time to flee
    Before it brake against the knee,
    And all the world was in the sea.

          Those who were looking inland saw how ...

             Along the river’s bed
         A mighty eygre reared its head
         And up the Lery raging sped.

          ... at Borth they escaped lightly, at Ynyslas the tenants fled to their
          upper storey as the tidal race plunged them into twelve feet of

          ... how it breached the railway beyond, sapping four miles of
          embankment, and sweeping the bodies of a drowned flock of sheep
          far inland to the very foot of the hills;

          Yet they saw enough to make them recall the grim memories of
          Taleisen’s shore ... and wonder if circumstance would be added to
          the legend of the Lost Lowland Hundred.

Pages 33 and 34 describe the ensuing horrors and reparations made by gangs of boys with masters leading, looking like scurrying ants ...

... their rudimentary defences were fortunately not tested, as the wind veered, allowing the water of the bay to return to a degree of normality.

"The Bed" Toulouse Lautrec 1893 -
looks too comfortable for me!
For their exertions they rewarded themselves with a lie-a-bed the next morning in place of early school!

Borth was not too bad, Ynyslas suffered severely, the surrounding countryside too – the school could and did help with a subscription to replace the cottagers’ losses.

They also put their backs into helping with the clear-up – for what had started out as “something not altogether unpleasing to us in the calamaties of our neighbours,” but the “humorous ruth” with which we contemplated the comical incidents of the disaster was exchanged in good time for practical pity.

Railway crossing the Dovey
It was a fortnight before the next train ran, but in the meantime the service was bridged by coach and horses.

There was another privation! – you would only know the football field at Ynyslas was there – from the goal posts rising mournfully through the floods, were a landmark which the boys recognised with rueful eyes in the midst of the drowned and deformed landscape.

Within three weeks the elements caused us alarm.  A heavy gale got up in the evening of February 19th, and roared all night upon the roof of the hotel, tearing up the fluttering tiles in patches, and sending them adrift through the air ...

... yet it was dry ... exceeding cold – but the schoolboy is hungry at all times; what must he be at night when dragged from bed to save his life, and forced to sit up, rather chilled and very empty, for several hours before daybreak?

... the Headmaster appeared with “a Midnight Feast” .. at least biscuits, and what supplies could be requisitioned at the moment, to provision the watch.
Thereafter the weeks rolled smoothly on, unmarked by moving incident, till they gladdened us with the growing light of spring, and brought us within near sight of our home.

Must the truth be told?  We are all of us loyal sons of Uppingham, but not all of us were glad to find our return to the mother-country was at last arriving.

However, alike for those who were impatient and those who were reluctant to attain it, the equal-handed hours brought the end of our exile.

Title page of the first quarto, 1600
On one of last evenings, April 6th, a reading was given in the school-room, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” with Mendelssohn’s music; no unfit close, we said, to our annus mirabilis.

For, indeed, its incidents had been “such stuff as dreams are made of,” as whimsical if not quite harmless, as if their plot had been directed by the blithe goblin of Shakespeare’s fantasy.

The encore of a second recital was offered to the good people of Borth ... they enjoyed it hugely.

But a more solemn farewell was taken on the morrow full details on page 37, but the whole village came down to the school doors, with banners, choirs singing ... when the cheers for “Uppingham” and our answering cheers for “Borth” had rung out across the sands to seaward ....

... the valediction was heard thus ...:

“We, the inhabitants of Borth, beg to tender our most sincere thanks to Dr Thring, and all the masters and scholars of the celebrated Uppingham School, for the very many generous acts, and kindly feeling exhibited to us during their sojourn here.”

... it was added ... he commented on the discipline which (from the evidence of their conduct when at large) seemed to rule the school; naively but pointed he noted that ...

ü No offence had ever been given;
ü No boy had laughed at the villagers, if they were old and queer-looking or queerly dressed;
ü There had been no disorder, no shabby act, nothing “un-decent” (so he put it in his unpractised English) during the whole twelve months we had spent among them.”

Welsh cottage

Clearly, as on that evening, we shall always see, distinct in the quiet light of the afterglow, the ranks of serious faces, touched and stilled by the surprise of a contagious sympathy, as English boys and Welsh cottagers looked each other in the face, ...

... and felt, if for the space of a few heartbeats only, an outflash of that ancient kinship which binds man and man together more than race and circumstance divide.

Take once again our thanks, kind people of Borth, if our thanks are worth your taking.  You showed us no little kindness in a strange land, and the day is far off when we shall forget the friendly, gentle people whose name is the memorial of a great ill escaped, of much good enjoyed, in the days that are over, and the landmark of who knows what greater good in the days that are to be.

All is over now; April was just a twelfth-night old when the school departed.

Do not let us forget Old “Borth”, the colley dog ... whose attachment to the school and boys is described on page 38 ... he poked his nose into the carriage to take his leave ... a sad and wet farewell for so beloved a school adoption.

The Dovey Estuary
The porpoise is once again close inshore – wallowing like the jolly sea-pig that he is – the wild creatures seem to have grown tamer since there are no stroller to keep them aloof.

Yes, the silence has come down again ... but it is a silence full of voices ... men hear most audibly the tumult of their own brains, so is it with us now.  Action is ended, and memory begins to work.

Borth early 1900s

The little fishing town has returned to its “old solitary nothingness” ... a sleepy sadness descends ... we go our separate ways ... sea-shore returns to Borth village, transposed school returns to Middle England where it rightfully belongs.

Thirteen centuries ago the hero became the guardian of the shore; but the story which ends to-day is, perhaps, as worthy note as any he watched from his hill-side.

The local paper, The Cambrian News, carried the farewell report (see pages 40 and 41) together with the story of the rumour that came to Borth some twelve months ago respecting the advent of Uppingham school ...

... a few old women and nervous people, in the innocence of their hearts, were afraid they would be swamped by an inundation of Goths and Vandals.

Thus the Final Act has come about ... of this small narrative – one final post will reveal the source and highlight some of the changes that have occurred within the intervening 135 years ...

PS I have a funeral to go to in Cornwall - so I'll be back Wednesday.  Someone who lived a long, happy and productive life dying peacefully in her sleep aged 95 - it will be a celebration of a life well-lived.

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories


Francene Stanley said...

What a challenge for you to recount this information. Well done. I hope you arrive safely home from Cornwall, the magical land I hold dear.

Old Kitty said...

These boys sound amazing! Love how they were commended for their wonderful behaviour towards the village and villagers! Take care


This was wonderful to read Hilary, must have taken along time to research and indeed to write.
Thanks for your good wishes.
Great to be back.


MorningAJ said...

I've really enjoyed sharing this story. Thank you for taking the time to tell it.

Annalisa Crawford said...

I've not been reading posts recently, so now I'll have to go back a couple to find out what's going on!

It sounds interesting though.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Francene - I enjoyed it .. but the story is worth telling = what to leave out or not! I expect Cornwall will be fine .. I enjoy going back there .. so I'll have a happy time driving along.

@ Old Kitty - you're so right - the valediction was wonderful to read.

@ Yvonne - glad you're feeling better - the challenge was the 'leaving out' .. but I'm so pleased everyone is enjoying it!

@ Morning AJ - I'm so pleased you've had a happy time reading this - it totally amused me when I first heard about it and thought this will make a great post (not 3 - as it's turned out!) ..

I'm switching off now - visiting my Mama, filling up with petrol (yugh!) and setting off to see a girl-friend on the way down. Back tomorrow after the funeral .. here on Wednesday I expect.

Cheers Hilary

Diane said...

What a great read, you have done well Hilary with your research.
Hope by the time you read this your journey will be safely over.
I hope when I pass on it will be peacefully in my sleep at a good age. Difficult for those left behind but what a great way to go, Take care Diane

Jo said...

I was impressed by the valediction too. Its great to know the boys were so well behaved. Not sure that would be the case today.

Interesting story, thanks for sharing. That storm must have been pretty scary.

T. Powell Coltrin said...

Your posts are such a great read. I learn so much. You need to write a book about castles, first off, I think???

I love seeing 90+ people live that long and go quietly/peacefully in their sleep. That's the only way to go. :)


Joylene Nowell Butler said...

I'd love to be a bug on the wall while you're creating these posts. Do they come easy for you? Or does it take as much work as I suspect? Great post as always, Hilary. I wish you'd been my teacher when I took history. I'd have learned so much more.

Lynn said...

There's so much here to take in - I will come back and read more later. I love these historical posts.

Unknown said...

What an account! I can't believe the headmaster was so smart and creative. I'm glad you're telling this story because not much exists on this event in time.

Anonymous said...

This time I liked the pictures better than the post. I love Renoir. Luncheon of the Boating Party and Oarsmen at Chatou are two of my favorites.

Susan Scheid said...

The grand story continues, and complete with such well-chosen images. I do love the indicators of good discipline, and, as another commenter has said, the Headmaster is to be much admired for his ingenuity, down to changing the school curriculum to compensate as early darkness and cold set it. I look forward to your next installment.

Inger said...

Having spent more time than usual doing research for my A - Z posts, I appreciate even more all the effort you put into telling us these interesting stories. Just amazing. I also want to thank you for your kind words on Angel's passing. And I hope you had a good journey to Cornwall. A place I never visited when I lived in England, but so wish I had.

Sharon K. Mayhew said...

You are an amazing researcher, Hilary! Nice job!

Chuck said...

That was spell-binding Hilary. The detail and verbiage was just captivating. I am further speechless.

Julie Flanders said...

What an amazing story, I hated to get to the end!

I love that Renoir painting, one of my favorites. Wonderful pictures all the way around.

I hope you have a safe trip to Cornwall, Hilary. :)

Juliet said...

This has been like reading a riveting serial. Thank you Hilary, and good wishes to you as you farewell your elder in Cornwall. It sounds as if she had a peaceful exit.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Diane - delighted you enjoyed the read. Yes I'm safely back .. and it was a quiet celebration for a life very well lived.

@ Jo - it's been interesting to read the reporting on this incident back in the late 1800s - that valediction particularly ..

The reports through the generations of the storm surges are really informative to read.

@ Teresa - right Castle book first! - I may do something in due time!! Many many thanks for the approval rating thought.

My 'aunt' was pretty special and influenced many with her words of wisdom ... as was my 'uncle' ... Yesterday in the garden was a fitting conclusion ..

@ Joylene - they come easily, then they get troublesome! I try too hard I think and put too much in - then the whittling occurs. However plagiarising helps! History was my bete noire at school .. but that osmosis factor must have been working over the years.

@ Lynn - great .. I hope you enjoy your return visit and re-read.

@ Clarissa - I'm just so glad you've all been 'so taken' with the story and therefore I'm very glad I'm retelling it ... thanks for your words Clarissa.

@ Stephen - it's a long post/3 posts, but tells the story ... but I'm glad the pictures resonate. I enjoy putting them in - as I'm not very knowledgeable about art .. I'll have to look at the two Renoir's you mention ...

@ Susan - thanks so much. Glad the images match the words. It's an interesting retelling of their year escaped - written in the period.

I'll be interested to read everyone's comments when I finally summarise today ...

@ Inger - many thanks for this comment. It does take time - yet I wouldn't do it if it didn't interest me .. and then I suspect and hope that you will all enjoy the postings - so really appreciate your words.

I'm so sorry re Angel - losing a beloved pet is devastating .. and yesterday was a great rendition for a life well lived - my 'aunt'. The journey was delightful through the countryside ..

@ Sharon - so pleased you enjoyed .. many thanks

@ Chuck - really grateful, just not sure I can take the credit ... I'm just an extracter - but I loved being able to repeat the vision here. Really appreciate your comment though ...

@ Julie - sorry, but I guess thankfully the typhoid was conquered, or at least realised how to ... so the school could return to its proper dwellings.

Glad you enjoyed the pictures .. and I'm back safely .. many thanks.

Cheers everyone - I hope to have the conclusion up later on today .. and thanks for your thoughts re my Cornish trip. Hilary

Deniz Bevan said...

Wonderful post, Hilary.
Bevan - that's my married name!
I first came across the legend of the Lost Hundred in Susan Cooper's The Dark Is Rising series...

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Deniz .. sorry this got lost in Blogger approval land!

I wondered if you'd pick the Bevan bit up .. and you did .. ab'evan ... son of Evan ... I'm fascinated where words derive from.

I'll have to check out Susan Cooper's book .. thanks for telling me about her series ..

Cheers Hilary