Competitions nos. 104A and 104B: results

George Blake returns, with a demand for a song (or fragment of it) against Sussex. Perhaps the best known is by William Ward-Higgs (1909), the first verse of which runs

Now is the time for marching,
Now let your hearts be gay,
Hark to the merry bugles
Sounding along our way.
So let your voices ring, my boys,
And take the time from me,
And I’ll sing you a song as we march along,
Of Sussex by the Sea!

(You can hear the tune and see all the lyrics here). Here’s Ward-Higgs:


As the site mentioned above notes, Rudyard Kipling had also contributed a long poem in 1902 to the genre, and you can read that here.

Rudyard Kipling

And then there is Hilaire Belloc, who was born in Sussex (Kipling was born in Bombay but moved to Sussex in 1897, and loved it instantly). You can read Belloc’s encomium here.


Hilaire Belloc

But, as has happened during my days of entry ( I can think of a good example from 1980), and has happened in any case before in the WR, the entrants don’t come up with a rousing song, but a poem approximating the same. Can it be, muses Blake, that there are no Sussex-haters out there. He commends the brutality of Dermot Spence (‘There are fifty other counties that I would rather see/ And Sussex-under-Ocean is quite all right by me’), even if he pauses to note that there aren’t fifty other counties. But no sustained ‘blast of scorn’ (not even from those entrants who live in the North).  After briefly exculpating Seacape, Non Omnia and E.W. Fordham amongst a select few, he gives the first prize to Little Billee, and the second to William Bliss (who mentions Belloc):



When it comes to 104B, Blake follows (as he notes) in the footsteps of other judges who have noted the predilection of entrants for poems. He has asked for six sayings of the week from a) Mr. Justice McCardie, b) Robert Lynd, c) the president of the Royal Academy [at that date, Sir (Samuel Henry) William Llewellyn, a portrait and landscape painter whose work you can see here, d) Judge Cluer, e) Hugh Walpole, and f) Bishop Welldon.

Okay, here goes. Sir Henry Alfred McCardie was a controversial and outspoken judge (especially on the subject of divorce, and, notoriously, on the side of Dyer at Amritsar) and thought the law should move with the times. He was a surprising advocate of the legalisation of abortion, and he frequently quarrelled in public with other judges. You can read more here. Ironically, McCardie was on the verge of a depression that was to lead within a year to his suicide (after which he was disclosed to have been a heavy gambler, and probably the victim of blackmail).

Justice McCardie

Justice McCardie

Robert Lynd is of course a WR/ New Statesman insider and his page is here. Sir William Llewellyn (1858-1941) (see his NPG photograph here) seems to have been a blameless individual, but he did provoke extreme irritation in The Spectator in 1935 when he said that the selection of paintings should ‘provide for people of unsophisticated taste’ and not simply on the grounds of greatness per se.  Judge Albert Rowland Cluer (1852-1941), the twelfth of fifteen children, was in charge of the Shoreditch court, and known for his waspish retorts, which included telling a woman that it was a pity she didn’t know how not to have children, In 1931, when a woman complained to him about another woman allowing her child to cry, he offered the opinion that it was good to let babies cry, as it tauught them to sing. Like many eccentric legal men, he had two sides. He is said to have learned Hebrew to help his Jewish clients. He was also a specialist in the works of Livy, much respected as a translator (and Frank Harris claims in his ‘autobiography’ that Cluer suggested, after meeting him on a train, that he get work with The Spectator, and that he duly did, by bribing a clerk!) Hugh Walpole (1884-1941, the third in a row to die in 1941!) was a prolific novelist with a high reputation that vanished in the second half of the century, or even before his death. His most popular novels were the historical Rogue Herries novels, set in Cumbria, that he was writing at the time of this competition – the third of four was published in 1932; but the success of Somerset Maugham’s Cakes And Ale (1930), which based its least likeable character on Walpole, was one nail in a coffin (Maugham denied it, but Walpole was mortified, and Maugham later admitted he’d lied), to which his Times obituary in 1941 added several more, calling him ‘a sentimental egotist’. He was certainly sentimental: he wrote the screenplay for Little Lord Fauntleroy – which starred the effable Freddie Bartholomew, as well as the young Mickey Rooney. It was available at the time of writing here. It seems possible that Walpole was attacked not only because he was popular, but because he was also a romantic gay.

Hugh Walpole

Hugh Walpole

Finally, Bishop Welldon – James Edward Cowell Welldon (1854-1837), who had been Bishop of Calcutta, but was in 1932 the Dean at Durham. He too was known for speaking out. He wrote to the Times, accusing Labour MPs of ‘vulgar profanity’ and asking if there was an ‘adequate means of preventing or punishing it’, and this drew a riposte in poetic form from, of all people, E.M.Forster:

MY brethren, nothing on earth is finer
Than a truly refined inarticulate miner
(Or may we say ` under the earth,’ for there
Is a miner’s place, not up in the air ?) ;
But he must be refined, he must be meek,
Expert at his job, yet unable to speak,
He must not complain or use swear words or spit ;
Much is expected of men in the pit.

It is different for me. I have earned the right,
Through position and birth to be impolite.
I have always been used to the best of things,
I was nourished at Eton and crowned at King’s,
I pushed to the front in religion and play,
I shoved all competitors out of the way ;
I ruled at Harrow, I went to Calcutta,
I buttered my bread and jammed my butter,
And returned as a bishop, enormous of port,
Who stood in a pulpit and said what he thought.
Yes, I said what I thought and thought what I said,
They hadn’t got butter, they hadn’t got bread,
They hadn’t got jam or tobacco or tea,
They hadn’t a friend, but they always had me.
And I’m different to them. I needn’t be meek,
Because I have learned the proper technique;
Because I’m a scholar, a don, and a dean,
It’s all in good taste when I’m vulgar or mean.

I can bully or patronize, just which I please ;
I am different to them. . . . But those Labour M.P.’s,
How dare they be rude ? They ought to have waited
Until they were properly educated.
They must be punished, they’ve got to be stopped,
Parliamentary privilege ought to be dropped.
They shall be scourged and buried alive
If they trespass on My prerogative.

May I most clearly state, ere I lay down my pen,
That rudeness is only for gentlemen ?
As it was in the beginning, it shall be … Amen !

Welldon was also the bane of Roman Catholics, and made a notorious speech in 1911, which he followed up with various replies to complaints in The Tablet, to the effect that it was Catholic doctrine that to be Protestant was to be damned.


Bishop Welldon, Dean of Durham

In other words, Blake has provided the entrants with six individuals, Llewellyn perhaps excepted, who ought to be good for a monumental quotation. But (and after all this!), Blake decides that ‘there is not one good entry among the lot’, barring one or two individual attributions. He witholds the guinea prize, and (not without suggesting he has Lynd wrong) awards the second prize of half a guinea, and no more, to James Hall. (It’s the right decision – only the Walpole is remotely admirable.)


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