Train gaffe robbed the world of com­poser How­ells’ ‘best work’

Gloucestershire Echo - - NOSTALGIA -

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

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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

Adle­strop Sta­tion

Bre­don Hill by A E Hous­man

Rid­ers by Jilly Cooper

Poet Ivor Gur­ney

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