Burying History

She had been a near neighbour for twenty odd years. But  we didn’t know her well. Ruth Searle just over one hundred and blind for her last ten years had her service in, now my favourite church. All Saints,Putney Its Burn Jones/William Morris windows and classic GE Street High Victorian design should have made it loved before.  A hundred services,concerts and Adelaide’s christening have made it mine.

Ruth had been married to an eye surgeon who had spent much of his career in India and Afghanistan  In wonderful English style she loved cricket,  two way radios , PG Wodehouse and the Anglican church. Her family had come from North Wales and before her time she had graduated from London University  She married her cousin “Bunny”. It was typical of their understated, highly educated and responsible style that they made a conscious decision not have children. She was no nonsense,witty and totally lovely.

But her Church in Wales ancestry made me think  of my favourite poet RS Thomas  This tall gaunt figure,whose  Bangor mother despised the Welsh language and taught her son plumb English,taught himself the language of the country he loved. The Church of Wales was patently not Methodist. Often  it posed as the church  of the middle classes against the others. Although a shy man, violently and sometimes ridiculously  opposed to consumerism, he won over his parishioners with his soulful kindness. He claimed that Wales had no present or future only a past .

Although passionate about his country , he described its citizens “An impotent  people,sick with  inbreeding,worrying the carcass of an old song.”

RS Thomas poetry  is sparse and like his parishioners, he is not sentimental . Half witted grins, the frightening vacancy of minds,the ridiculous pride in new  tractors,the hard hill farm life where faces are chiseled by the wind-these are the back drop. To an immense and powerful faith which is encouraged by every view,every hedgerow,every living animal every drop of dew.

In Wales there are jewels                                                                                                                        To gather,but with the eye                                                                                                                      Only. A hill lights up                                                                                                                  Suddenly;a field trembles                                                                                                                                                  With colour and goes out                                                                                                                         In its turn;

Thomas was proposed for the Nobel Prize in 1996. He died in 2000. Ruth Searle died earlier this month and one of the lines sung ,at the service,by the beautiful soprano from Handel’s opera Serse translated

A shade there never was,of any plant,dearer and more lovely or more sweet.

What a line to have chiseled in slate. Like all of RS Thomas.

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3 Responses to Burying History

  1. Peter Boyle says:

    Hugh, a welsh man of the church and poet, could I have been at school with his son, a great sportsman?

    • itwonthurt says:

      His son,Gwydion Thomas,was sent to a boarding school in England which he hated and resented his father for sending him there. That was not all he resented about his father. In the wonderful biography of RS Thomas “The man who went into the West” by Byron Rogers the son who marries three times and ends up in Thailand with his third wife(I wish),is described as “Now(2007) a thick,bald thick set man in a singlet.he looked like an off duty bouncer.”. The prep school is named as Packwood in Shropshire. he then goes onto Bradfield. YES he is your man.

      ________________________________

  2. itwonthurt says:

    His son,Gwydion Thomas,was sent to a boarding school in England which he hated and resented his father for sending him there. That was not all he resented about his father. In the wonderful biography of RS Thomas “The man who went into the West” by Byron Rogers the son who marries three times and ends up in Thailand with his third wife(I wish),is described as “Now(2007) a thick,bald thick set man in a singlet.he looked like an off duty bouncer.”. The prep school is named as Packwood in Shropshire. he then goes onto Bradfield. YES he is your man.

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