AGM and poetry at the Railway Inn, Newnham

On 19th April 2013 the F.W. Harvey Society held their Annual General Meeting and a memorable evening of dialect poetry at Newnham on Severn. In a packed Railway Inn, the Society and friends gathered to listen to listen to recordings and readings of dialect poetry. The Society also used the occasion to give a special thanks to David Price, their host for the evening. The AGM reflected on a very successful year that increased regional and national appreciation of the life and work of F.W. Harvey.

The evening began with a remarkable tape recording made many years previously and donated to the Society and Gloucestershire Archives. The aim of playing the tape was to establish the author and the origin of the recording. The narrator described F.W. Harvey’s love of Gloucestershire and Minsterworth. He read nine of F.W. Harvey’s best dialect poems concluding with ‘Martha Bazin on Marriage’. The audience immediately recognised the voice of the late Harry Beddington, the popular Forest humourist and author. One member of the audience remembered the sister of the biographer, Frances Townsend, going to see Harry late in his life to make the recording. So the mystery was solved and the very special recording can now be properly attributed to Harry Beddington. The last poem included the line ‘modern life has old beginnings’ and so it was that the audience was treated to a live performance of the works of Forest bard Keith Morgan, whose ballads told the story of humorous local events and people stretching across Bream, Coleford and Lydney.

The F.W. Harvey Society performed a special version of ‘A River, a Pig and Brains’ in honour of the host. David Price, manager of the Railway Inn, a book collector and local historian, has been a lifelong admirer of F.W. Harvey and committed supporter of the Society. He was presented with a replica drinking horn, as used by Willum Fry to inebriate the pig, and a book, in recognition of his hospitality and support for the Society and the Railway Inn’s recent achievement of winning the CAMRA Cider Pub of the Year award. His support of the local cider industry is part of David’s commitment to local traditions, much of which is reflected in the verse of F.W. Harvey. The final part of the evening was given over to contemporary poets reciting their dialect work; Rob Brain and Annie Cavill. These performances were applauded by the audience who had enjoyed a generous cider and cheese supper provided by the host. Following a poem read by Maurice Bent, Keith Morgan concluded with a selection of his favourite F.W. Harvey poems.

The members of the Society attending the AGM were delighted with the growing membership of the Society and the success of events held in the Forest and Gloucester last year. The discovery of F.W. Harvey’s personal papers and the subsequent archiving project had been another highlight. This year the Society is concentrating on promoting the dialect poetry of F.W. Harvey and his pioneering attempts to bring dialect to a wider audience before the Second World War. For 2014 the Society is already looking forward to a performance of Choral work composed by Richard Shepherd, featuring the words of F.W. Harvey, being performed at Gloucester Cathedral.

Roger Deeks said: ‘We had a lot of laughter, excellent food, drink and good company; everything F.W. Harvey would have approved of. We are grateful for the support of our members and our host tonight, David Price.’

F.W. Harvey factoid: In 1952 a rather poorly, jaundiced, young Duke of Edinburgh was given a copy of F.W. Harvey’s poems: Gloucestershire Lad. His private secretary wrote to say how much he enjoyed it, particularly the poem Ballade of Damnable Things.

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