On a visit to the local museum of antiquities today I passed by a glass casket and I heard the figure inside sing,
For me no stone at head or feet,
Buried ‘neath the sodden peat,
Full three times I died, at the hands
of former dwellers in this land,
messenger to the gods my fate,
my kinsmen’s problems to relate
our hunting failures, weather woes
humiliation by our foes,
my message to our Gods was clear
but they pretended not to hear,
With wrists behind me tightly bound,
A cord around my neck was wound,
a rock against my temple dashed
then with a knife, throat crudely slashed
my patriotic chore now done
in Eden’s glade my spirit runs,
though from the earth my body raised
my final bed a tomb full-glazed,
and as I lie in endless slumber
my name forgotten, now just a number.
“You may well hang your head, I suppose you’ve been sneaking around again, upstairs and downstairs. I wouldn’t put it past your sort to go poking around in my ladies chamber. Go on admit it, you have haven’t you?”
The 15th August 1952, a night of tragedy for a small close-knit community on the wastes of Exmoor. Still remembered by many as one of the most tragic nights in living memory. Many tales of bravery have been told mixed with tales of woe, here is one such with a most poignant climax.
Grandfather Abe sat in his chair beside the old log fire. Stubborn, obstinate, he had refused to leave with his family when they had told him the house wasn’t safe and looked likely to collapse. The rushing waters of the swollen river rising ever higher at its back door. He insisted that the river had served him all his long life and would never hurt him now, but he was wrong. He was just drifting off to sleep when the end came and only awoke when he found himself in the water, miraculously unharmed by the tumbling masonry, all that was left of his beloved cottage as it toppled backwards into the torrent.
His wife, watching from outside, where she had waited in the cold and driving rain shaking her head at his obstinacy, gasped as she saw the collapsing building, safe from her position across the road from their front garden. Fearing the worst for her husband she rushed back to what had now become the water’s edge. It was not yet completely dark and suddenly she saw a shape in the water, arms thrashing wildly. It was Abe struggling to escape the fast flowing stream. His wife cried out, “Here Abe,” and bracing herself against the railings that were previously the garden fence, leaned through and reached out her arms to him. This appeared to give him renewed strength and in two strokes he reached the railings but the effort took it’s toll. He started to roll over. With superhuman effort his wife managed to grab hold of his braces and drag him towards her till he could grab the railings himself.
With one last heave she dragged him to the lowest bar. Exhausted she leaned her arm on the top rail but with the water around her feet she over balanced and with a loud cry toppled into the water to be swept away. Her body later recovered about half a mile downstream wedged under the remains of one of the many bridges destroyed by the flood. Old Abe never recovered from the shock of losing his wife in that way. He knew that it was only because of his attitude she had lost her life and was never the same again.
When over the bow
the great wave breaks,
rearing and plunging
the whole vessel shakes
the binnacle spins,
the helmsman takes
a firm grip on the wheel while
between decks the sailor makes
the sign of the cross
as for a lull in the storm
he patiently waits