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Stroud Scarlet and William Cuffay: An Exploration

We have written before about Stroud Scarlet, the slave trade, and triangles of conjecture. (See point 5 at https://sootallures.wixsite.com/topographersarms/post/a-community-curriculum )

But what of William Cuffay?

William’s mother, Juliana Fox, was born in Kent, whilst his once enslaved father, Chatham Cuffay, made it to Kent from St Kitts. William Cuffay, of mixed-heritage, born in 1788, became a famous Chartist leader in the mid nineteenth century and then an activist after transportation to Tasmania. ( See https://sootallures.wixsite.com/topographersarms/post/william-cuffay for an imaginative reconstruction of William’s life.)
William is one of the first working-class leaders of colour, and possibly the most famous. There is a campaign for a memorial to honour him in the Medway area of Kent:

‘Hi Stuart …
We are working with Medway Afro-Caribbean Association to get a plaque for Cuffay in Medway, hopefully in time for Black History Month. They need at least £3000 and have been talking to Medway Council who have only offered them £1500. This is something the Trade Union Movement could (and should) easily pay for and we will be approaching local branches and national unions for support. It might even encourage them to think about some sort of memorial to Cuffay in London.

There is much more to Cuffay’s story than can be put on a plaque so we are also looking to organise some sort of annual event so that Cuffay and the Chartists, a key part of both Black and working-class history, become much better known.’

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WALKING THE THAMES TO LONDON #5

Raising Funds for the Trussell Trust
In association with the cyclists’ group from The Prince Albert
Lechlade to Newbridge 16 miles

I walked past Shelley’s Close by the Church …

Where Shelley wrote his ‘Summer Evening Churchyard’,
Crossed the bridge and turned left for London,
It was just the sort of light I like for a riverine walk:
Waves of silver rippling through the dark waters,
Moody clouds above Old Father Thames’ statue,
Once of Crystal Palace, now recumbent at St John’s Lock –
But the nineteenth century was soon forgotten:
It all got a bit Mrs Miniver and Went the Day Well?
After Bloomer’s Hole footbridge:
I lost count of the pillboxes in the fields and on the banks
(‘Mr. Brown goes off to Town on the 8.21,
But he comes home each evening,
And he’s ready with his gun’),
As I walked on past Buscot, with its line of poplar trees,
Planted to drain the soil in its Victorian heyday of sugar beet
And once with a narrow gauge railway dancing across
A lost Saxon village at Eaton Hastings;
Then on past William Morris’ ‘heaven on earth’
At Kelmscott Manor (‘Visit our website to shop online!’),
Walkers occasionally appearing beyond hedgerows,
Like Edward Thomas’ ‘The Other Man’;
Then to Grafton Lock, and on to Radcot’s bridges and lock
(The waters divide here with two bridges:
The older, the site of a medieval battle after the Peasants’ Revolt;
A statue of the Virgin Mary once in a niche in the bridge, too,
Mutilated by the Levellers, before their Burford executions;
The newer bridge built in the hope and expectations
Of traffic and profit in the wake of the Thames and Severn Canal),
Past Old Man’s Bridge, Rushey Lock and Rushey Weir:
A traditional Thames paddle and rymer weir
(The paddles and handles, called rymers,
Dropped into position to block the rushing waters).
Now it’s on to isolated Tadpole Bridge on the Bampton turnpike,
Now past Chimney Meadow – once a Saxon island,
Then Tenfoot Bridge – characteristically,
Where an upper Thames flash weir sed to pour its waters,
Until Victorian modernity silenced that;
Then past Shifford Weir and the hamlet of Shifford,
Once a major Wessex town, where King Alfred
Met with his parliament of
‘Many bishops, and many book-learned.
Earls wise and Knights awful’.

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Some say Incompetent, Some say Criminal

Dominic Raab, knowing that a week is a long time in politics, has said that “Now is not the time to commit to an inquiry”.

He knows that the government’s actions and inaction have led to needless loss of life.

We believe that the government must answer for these deaths under the Corporate Manslaughter Act and are seeking to crowdfund a prosecution.

The link is here: https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/keith-
butler?utm_term=9wxY78P9Z

The link will reveal the serious, principled and sequential structure to the
campaign.

The BBC and The Guardian have both been contacted today about this.

Keith Butler is assiduously, sedulously and forensically compiling a compelling dossier of evidence.

Please support financially if you can and/or by sharing this as widely as you can.

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WALKING THE THAMES TO LONDON #4

Raising Funds for the Trussell Trust

In association with the cyclists’ group from The Prince Albert

Day Two: Cricklade to Lechlade 11 miles

William Cobbett visited Cricklade in 1826 on his Rural Rides: ‘the source of the river Isis … the first branch of the Thames. They call it the “Old Thames” and I rode through it here, it not being above four or five yards wide, and not deeper than the knees of my horse … I saw in one single farm-yard here more food than enough for four times the inhabitants of the parish … the poor creatures that raise the wheat and the barley and cheese and the mutton and the beef are living upon potatoes …’
Plus ca change …

A haiku exploration:
Ridge and furrow fields,
Once beyond the river’s reach,
Now puddled and drowned.

Peasants till the fields,
Barefoot ghosts and revenants
Follow in our steps.

Silhouetted trees,
Pewter sky and silver clouds,
The water’s canvas.

Swans glide the field-flood,
A limitless lake’s expanse,
Burnished willow boughs.

And at Inglesham,
A medieval village,
Lost to Time’s waters.

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Rough Musick

ROUGH MUSICK
When we bang our pots and pans in the street,
When we clap our hands in harmony,
It’s not just an expression of sympathy,
Nor some sort of collective empathy,
It’s also the revival of ROUGH MUSICK.

ROUGH MUSICK:
A community PANDAEMONIUM
To indicate disapproval of rulers,
The wrong-doer often shown in effigy,
Sometimes riding the SKIMMINGTON,
As in The Mayor of Casterbridge,
Or the 1825 Stroud weavers’ riots,
As the world is turned upside down.

THE SKIMMINGTON
Perhaps we’ll see Dominic Cummings
In effigy, and Boris Johnson,
Placed backwards on a donkey in Chalford,
Or wheelbarrow or bike in Stroud,
As we all chant:
‘TEST
TEST
TEST
PPE
KEEP KEY WORKERS
VIRUS-FREE.’

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Walking The Thames To London #3

WALKING THE THAMES TO LONDON #3
Raising Funds for the Trussell Trust
In association with the cyclists’ group from The Prince Albert

And on Thursday 6th February, I started the first day
On my Thames Path Food Bank Pilgrimage:
Day One Thursday 6th February 2020 Source to Cricklade

Frost, fog, mist, sunshine, sunrise 7.31; sunset 16.57; carbon count 413.90; remembering the remarkable Allen Davenport of Ewen, one mile on from the source of the river; swans, herons, twitcher all in camouflage secreted behind a tree, ridge and furrow, flooded water meadows, meandering broken banked Thames, wading waist-deep on one occasion; 13 miles. Cricklade 3pm.

Remembering Allen Davenport of Ewen:

One of ten children in a handloom weaver’s cottage: ‘I was born May 1st, 1775, in the small and obscure village of Ewen … somewhat more than a mile from the source of the Thames, on the banks of which stream stands the cottage in which I was born … I came into existence, while the revolutionary war of America was raging …’

He taught himself to read by learning songs; then saving up to buy printed versions. He taught himself to write: ‘I got hold of a written alphabet … I tried my hand at black and white … and to my inexpressible joy I soon discovered that my writing could be read and partially understood’.

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Virtual Walking

KEEP FIT WHEN SELF-ISOLATING by pretending to walk the Thames to London. Join me for a virtual walk and measure your steps inside your house. As many of you know, I have been walking the river piecemeal towards London to raise funds for the Trussell Trust and food banks. I’ve got as far as Wallingford in reality and have now walked to Tilehurst in a pretend way. Join me if you wish and I’ll let you know what you’ve seen along the river banks. The next stage is from Cholsey to Tilehurst which is about twelve miles.

It may be that you might want to send me a sentence or two about your ‘walk’ in exchange, as we build up a journal of this new plague year. The first two posts about walking from Stroud are up here – please see below.

I have reached the conclusion that individual, family and public health considerations mean that I will now walk the Thames in a virtual/pretend way.

How will I do this?

By laying out the route-map for the day and by measuring the required distance on my phone. I will walk within my home and within my immediate locality, but far from the madding crowd: 19 corvids rather COVID-19, as it were.

By using imagination and memory rather than observation. By following my usual practice of blending reflections on topographical, historical, and contemporary contexts, with the Trussell Trust and food banks always in focus.

By all virtual means, please join me.

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