Train gaffe robbed the world of composer Howells’ ‘best work’
ESTEEMED composer Herbert Howells, who was born in Lydney in 1892, wrote numerous works that are often performed in concert halls to this day.
There is, however, another piece that is never played. This is because he lost it.
His Gloucestershire Quartet, completed in 1916, was he told friends one of his proudest achievements.
So we can only imagine how upset Howells, right, was when he realized he’d left the only copy on a train.
Contemporaries urged him to re-write the piece, but the glum composer replied that he couldn’t remember how it went.
Gloucestershire resident Jilly Cooper’s first mega selling novel was Riders, which topped the best sellers’ list for eight weeks in 1985.
But she had, in fact, written the book in 1970 and left it on the bus after having a good lunch in London.
It never turned up and she had to sit down at the typewriter and tap the whole thing out again.
Pelham Grenville Wodehouse numbers among the country’s most favourite humorous writers.
If you’re a fan, you may have noticed that Cheltenham is mentioned often in his stories, usually as the home of this or that old fuddy-duddy who resides in one of the town’s private hotels.
Pelham (or Plum as he was known to family and friends) was a frequent visitor to Cheltenham.
When he was 21 his parents moved from Shropshire to live in the town and had a house near the Town Hall in Wellesley Terrace, off Oriel Road.
Plum came to know the area well and it’s said that Sudeley Castle was the model he chose for Blandings, the setting for many of his stories and home to Lord Emsworth. (Emsworth, incidentally, is the name of the seaside town in Hampshire where Plum lived.)
No mean cricketer himself, Plum went to the Cheltenham cricket festival in 1913 to watch a match between Gloucestershire and Warwickshire.
Included in the visitors’ side was a useful all-rounder named Percy Jeeves. Had his career not been brought to a premature end by the First World War, in which he was killed, Percy Jeeves might have gone on to make a name for himself as a player for England.
Instead his name was immortalised in another way. Three years after the match at the College Ground, Plum was in New York.
There he devised his best known duo of comic characters, the man about town, ever dapper, perpetually springstepped Bertie Wooster and his urbane, but canny butler Jeeves.
Plum confirmed in an interview that the name was chosen in memory of the cricketer he’d seen at the Cheltenham festival. Although it’s just over the border in Worcestershire, many Tewkesbury people think of Bredon Hill as their own.
A E Housman, the poet best known for A Shropshire Lad, wrote a melancholic poem called Bredon Hill.
It starts off cheerfully enough “Here of a Sunday morning/ My love and I would lie/ And see the coloured counties/ And hear the larks so high / About us in the sky”, but just a few stanzas later his love has died and he’s contemplating his own inevitable fate. Ah well.
Returning to Howells for a moment, his well known Piano Quartet (which he didn’t mislay) is dedicated “to the hill at Chosen and Ivor Gurney who knows it”.
The hill he referred to is, of course, in Churchdown, while Ivor Gurney, the Gloucester born poet and song writer, was born this week in 1890.
In one of his poems Gurney eulogized “May Hill that Gloucester dwellers ’gainst every sunset see”.
It’s a local landmark that has a special importance for many Gloucester people.
If you’ve been away, the sight of May Hill, plump and rounded like a Christmas pudding with its crew cut of trees atop, means you’re home.
If you have a copy of “Hymns
ancient and modern” handy, find “In the bleak mid winter”, to which Christina Rossetti wrote the words and Gustav Holst provided the hauntingly beautiful tune.
Both have Gloucestershire connections. Christina Rossetti was a visitor to Painswick Road in Cheltenham where her aunt and uncle lived and also to Kelmscott Manor, near Lechlade where her brother Gabriel lived with business partner William Morris.
Gustav Holst was born in Cheltenham and his tune to Christina’s words is called Cranham, after the village on the hill above Brockworth where he was staying when he composed the piece.
Edward Thomas, one of the Dymock poets, wrote his famous poem Adlestrop after his imagination was caught on the platform of the railway station near Moreton-in-marsh.
Cricketer Percy Jeeves was immortalised by P G Wodehouse after he saw him play at the Cheltenham Festival in 1913
Bredon Hill by A E Housman
Riders by Jilly Cooper
Poet Ivor Gurney