Each little river has a tale which, if understood, cannot fail
To edify the Human heart; mine’s of Lovers who’d not part:
Both loved Nature, read her runes and worshipped countless harvest moons.
He, a Minchinhampton Man – she the lanes of Burleigh ran,
Eager, passionate, enthralled to embrace her Archibald.
The stream that gushes into town on Hazel Woods, as hail, crashed down.
High on that ridge where sheep are shorn, a tiny rivulet was born.
It seeped through soil and chiselled stone, caressing sea-spawned Cotswold bone.
A weave of light like soft silk shook became a dancing, babbling brook.
Through Gatcombe Park the waters curled, then through its stately gardens swirled
To trace a spiral as they whirled past Longfords Mill.
‘How do you prove you have a conscience?’
You came to me via a pdf,
Out of the blue,
Via a Facebook message,
On a hot afternoon in late July,
With names, occupations, addresses and ages –
A bit like a census, in a strange way:
Official, bald, and bureaucratic
In your modernity,
No telegrams today.
Eighteen conscientious objectors
Whose courage, principles and politics,
Whose ethics, morals and steadfastness
Enabled them to stand up against the crowd,
In those heated days before and after July 1916,
And before and after November 1918.
The paintings of badgers on the posts at Slad,
Are beguiling and deceptive in their art,
Seemingly comic and anthropomorphic,
Each one contributes to a tragic tale,
Summarised in that curt and cruel word: cull.
They look like Tommies facing execution,
Tied to their posts at dawn’s first red-streaked light:
What passing-bells for those who die for cattle?
‘Only the monstrous anger of the guns,
Only the stuttering rifles’ rapid rattle.’
Echo Chamber: Voices of Conscience – a sound and photography exhibition marking 100 years of conscientious objection – owes its inspirational existence to Fiona Meadley, Dom Thomas and Ruth Davey. The exhibition includes information submitted by living relatives of Conscientious Objectors from WW1: it was a privilege to contribute to this history, with our performance of the story of Dorothy and Archibald.
The link: http://radicalstroud.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/Archie-And-Dorothy.m4a takes you to a recording made of Dorothy and Archibald , featuring the voices of Rachel Simpson and Stuart Butler, as they read the words of Alice Butler and Stuart, during the Stroud Book Festival in November 2016.
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