‘Extraordinary Whirlwind’ & Last Word from Miss Foster

weather aldbourne 1863 whirlwind

Cutting at Wiltshire Museum

A century after the hurricane that ‘blew so hard at North’ this report appeared in August 1863.  The article was collected into Rev E H Goddard’s scrapbooks and can be found in the library at the Wiltshire Museum, Devizes (along with many, many other fascinating snippets about the village!).  I’ve seen another item about a lady who was carried some distance by a strong wind under her skirts (!).  I’ll track it down again eventually ….  In the meantime, I’ll leave the weather for today with a final word from Miss Foster; taken from Tony Gilligan’s Parish News December 1985.  A copy of the ‘Fisherman’s Diary’ referred to can be found in the Aldbourne Heritage Centre (open Easter – September and by request); drop them a line if you’d like to know more.

parish news aldbourne december 1985 muriel foster weather

Parish News December 1985

Aldbourne Tradition Revived: The Mummers Are Back!

mummers return 131218

It was great to find out why the December gathering of the Aldbourne Community Heritage Group was entitled ‘Mum’s the Word’ and witness the performance of a Mummers Play.  I have heard a rumour that the Mummers will return again at the Blue Boar this Twelfth Night, thus participating in an ancient celebration.

Some sources suggest that the idea of ‘keeping mum’ comes from the old English word ‘mum’ meaning to remain silent – hence ‘mumming’; but since there’s very little peace and quiet associated with the Mummers I’ve met, I’ve always wondered if an alternative explanation holds true.  You’ve got the Greek word “Mommo”, meaning a mask, to consider.  Since the plays when spoken tended to include local references and gibes, it’s possible that the tradition of blacking the face, or wearing a mask, to avoid recognition (and retribution!) has it’s origin there.  Who knows?  Whatever the derivation it’s all jolly good fun!  Maybe I’ll find time to have a really good chat to some Mummers I know and do further research before next year.  A good starting point is the library and archive at the Wiltshire Museum in Devizes and in the Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Magazine. Warning: the Rev Goddard’s notes are addictive – fascinating stuff; loved the reference to ‘up goes the donkey’ which was a topic for Twittering during the Terry Pratchett Exhibition at Salisbury Museum last year – but that’s another story …

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The only reference I’ve personally found to Mumming in the Aldbourne comes in part from Ida Gandy, chapter 3 of The Heart of a Village mentions William Walters, who in ‘his early days played in a band of village mummers’.  I think this was a mistaken name since a newspaper account from 1933 carries the same words, and relates to William Walker.  Thanks to Hannah White-Overton, William’s great-grandaughter, I am able to include a copy of the newspaper cutting below.

waes hael to all and sundry on Twelfth Night and for 2019

National Bird Day 2019

It’s #NationalBirdDay today according to the TwitterSphere. Spare a thought for our feathered friends.  Aldbourne Archive sends greetings to Dabchicks everywhere (and ‘Bobchicks’!).

bobchick 3 june 1920 sorley wilts gazette

From the cuttings books in the library at Wiltshire Museum, Devizes

National Bird Day was first marked on 5 January 2008 in America.  Interesting snippet of history, the inspiration appears to have been a Mr Babcock …

History of Bird Day

Back in 1894, Charles Almanzo Babcock, the superintendent of schools in Oil City, Pennsylvania, declared the first holiday in the United States to celebrate birds. Babcock wanted to advance bird conservation as a moral value and it seems that his holiday caught on. Babcock’s Bird Day is actually what is now known as International Migratory Bird Day, though it isn’t actually related to Bird Day in terms of history. Bird Day marked the end of the annual Christmas Bird Count in the mid-21st century.

Source: daysoftheyear.com

A Tale from 1940 re-discovered by Social Media!

It was a great delight to hear from Ivor Walklett on Boxing Day 2018. Here’s his story; sent in response to the photo of the little boy with boxes posted on the Aldbourne Archive Facebook page in June 2018. Ivor was one of Miss Muriel Foster’s happy band of WVS salvage collectors during the Second World War.

My mother’s maiden name was Eva Penny and all of her family were from Aldbourne.

Mother brought myself and my two sisters, Honora and Dorothy, down to Aldbourne from where we lived in North London, to avoid the bombing at the start of WW2. We returned sometime in 1942 and even then I remember seeing V1s (Doodlebugs) and watching them glide down and explode after their engine stopped.

Whilst in Aldbourne we stayed with Mothers sister, Mabel, who was married to Albert Stacey who owned the grocery and bakery in the square. Mother had another sister, Dolly, who lived in ‘Neals’ on the road leaving the village towards Hungerford. Aunt Dollie’s married name was Alder and her husband Joe was Bandmaster. If I recall correctly, Albert was also a band member.

I also remember the American 101st Airbourne (Screaming Eagles) encamped further out of the village towards Hungerford, and still have the badges and insignia given to me by some of them. Although I did not understand at the time, they were about to undertake (for most of them, I guess) a one way journey to France for the D-Day landing.

My father was a retired army officer who was seconded into the MOD soon after the start of WW2 and that was why we lived in London.

I had three elder brothers, who all volunteered for military service when they reached 18. Douglas, the eldest served the whole war in the 8th Army. Trevers and Bob both ended up in the 6th Airbourne Division. Trevers’ actions were D-Day, the Ardennes and the Rhine crossing. Bob’s were the Ardennes and the Rhine crossing. All survived, much to my mother’s great relief, although Trev and Bob were wounded.

I mention my brothers because I joined their engineering business after I had completed National Service in the RAF around 1956. We all had a tremendous interest in motor racing and sports cars and in 1958 started making cars which we called Ginetta. Soon after it became a separate company, Ginetta Cars Ltd, which was sold in late 1989 when my brothers reached retirement age.

There have been a number of books on Ginetta, the most recent was published around July this year titled “Ginetta Road and Track Car”.  It is perhaps coincidental that it is published by Crowood Publishing who have offices in Ramsbury which reminded me that one of Mother’s brothers, Jack Penny, had a bakers shop there when we were in Aldbourne.

Shortly, after selling Ginetta, Trevers and I formed Dare UK Ltd, acquiring the rights to the models: G4, G12 and G16 and also creating Dare models: DZ and TGS, selling many units worldwide and is now managed by my son Thomas and myself.

The internet and YouTube will entertain you, just Google ‘Ivor Walklett’, and you will see the many cars we have sold the world over, as well as Ginetta and Dare UK.

I remember Miss Foster though did not understand the important task she undertook arranging the collection of anything that would help the war effort. I must confess I was driven by the reward of a sweet for taking cardboard or waste paper to her, for they we’re in short supply as well.

Ivor Walklett – December 2018

Aldbourne History in Toccoa, Georgia

Passing on a message from a visitor to Aldbourne.

My family and I visited your wonderful village this past July and as a former member of the 506th Infantry, I was honored to my core that your population has not forgotten my Currahee forefathers.

I was humbled to stand in the Blue Boar to have a pint of bitter where men like Lewis Nixon and Richard Winters had meals and socialized during down time whilst awaiting the orders to take mainland Europe back.

For Christmas this year, my wife suggested that we take a trip to Toccoa, Georgia, where the regiment was founded since it is only 6 hours from our home. I have shared some of the photos I took above. There are some inside and outside photos of the stables the men stayed in. I am told that these were disassembled in Aldbourne and reassembled in the Toccoa/Currahee Museum.

I also included a photo of the flagpole at the pinnacle of Currahee mountain and a view of the lowland from near the top. Again, chills ran down my spine while standing in the footsteps of these men and I felt moved to share them with you all.

David Thompson – December 2018

 

Early Call from Aldbourne Band

Band on Church

Aldbourne Band were out and about this morning, following their time honoured tradition to herald Christmas Day.  For those of us who partake of social media, it was fun to watch the comments appearing as the group of stalwart players made progress through the streets and of course to hear the soft notes (we’re not near a streetlamp these days) of ‘Silent Night’.

Read the account of a ‘new American friend’ who visited the village in 1985 to explore the custom (with thanks to Graham Smith for the copy of the article).  Brass Caroling with Aldbourne Band – Douglas Smith (pdf opens in new window).  For lots more information, please visit Aldbourne Band – A History by Graham Palmer on the Aldbourne Heritage Centre website – particularly chapter 13, Christians Awake!

Perhaps shy of being in Bethlehem itself the experience of responding to the musical strains of ‘O Come, Let us Adore him, Christ the Lord,’ played beautifully from atop the church tower on that snowy Christmas morning, will linger in my memory as no other. The band did not sing, they did not have to.  Their playing, the dedication which motivated it, said to their American observer everything that needed to be said about the good news of Christmas.

Dr Douglas Smith, professor of church music at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, writing for the British Notebook in The Church Musician September 1985