In former days, says Richard Church, bucolic poets turned their attention to the milkmaid Amaryllis and wrote her poems. Now, he asks for a two-stanza lyric to a milking-machine.
This is a neat idea, although competitors then as now were just as sloppy in reading the instructions. Only seventeen addressed their poems to the milking-machine. The rest simply wrote about one. That made Church’s job relatively easy. One of the runners-up was Sir Horace (Cecil) Monro (1861-1949), a retired civil servant who had been Permanent Secretary to the Local Government Board, and had been given the responsibility of producing in 1920 a report on the Water Board. Monro had university-days links with Punch’s editor, Bertram Fletcher Robinson, so it’s not completely surprising to find him entering a light verse competition – he and Robinson had co-written skits in the 1890s. However, one suspects that he had not intended his name to be revealed – for Horace Cecil Monro has in fact been winning for quite some time (and was still winning after World War II). He’s ‘H.C.M.’.
The winners are Gerald Summers and Janet Jekyll. I can’t make up my mind whether the latter is a pseudonym – curiously, but not until a couple of decades later, a ‘Daughter of Jekyll’ film gave the daughter the name ‘Janet’.