Wednesday, 16 December 2009

The Pride of Yeovil

A suitable remembrance of a great man.  Yeovil remembers - well not really one of its favourite sons, as Thomas Hardy only lived there for a short period of time while trying to keep his mother and his wife apart.  But certainly one of its most famous inhabitants.

Thomas Hardy, OM.    Truly "Wessex Man".  A man of Dorset - but also of Somerset.  One of the few people famous as both a poet and a novelist.  And seriously, seriously good at both.  With his nostalgic yet modernist mind-frame, one of the great examples of the Victorian spirit that gained a world but realised it had lost its soul.  In his ability to recreate the past and make it more like what he would have liked, he has been a real inspiration to me (although Hnaef hates the novels).

Who could not be proud of Hardy?  There's a quiet suburban house in Paddington, London with a blue plaque on the wall, celebrating the mere few months Hardy spent there while working as an architect.  But he wrote two short stories with Yeovil settings.  He lived in Yeovil while preparing for, it could reasonably be argued, his greatest novel, Return of the Native.  A novel in which the love lives and rivalries of a group of assorted misfits and half-wits living on a heath are played out below Rainbarrow, within which sleep the Beaker Folk whose mere presence mocks the shallow considerations of the living.  So of course Yeovil, home at one time (I am reliably told by a local religious leader) of the great Sir Ian Botham, Ashes saviour and Shredded Wheat-eater, would celebrate Mr Hardy (OM) appropriately.

Now, we know Hardy was not a tall man.  "Of middle height" was what he claimed, and he may have been on tip-toes to manage even that.
But - we reckon he was probably taller than this plaque.

Sandwiched between a parking meter and a dustbin.  In close and convenient reach of what appears to be a grit box, in case anyone reading the plaque should slip over in this wintry weather we're suffering.  Although, to be honest, it's more likely that getting a rush of blood to the head would make them fall over given the angle they'd have to be at to read it.  I mean, they could even have stuck the plaque on that lamp-post and it would have been more prominent.

We note that Yeovil's "famous residents" appear to be, generally speaking, not very famous outside Yeovil.  Frankly, they seem to be struggling for celebrity.  Even "Sir Beefy" made sure his son was born in Yorkshire.  Perhaps they should treat their genuinely famous people better, if they think they deserve to have any more?  However we do note that TS Eliot also briefly resided there.  Goodness knows how he's been commemorated.  Maybe they've sprayed the fact on the wall of the house where he once lived?  Or named a bus shelter after him?  Or maybe - we can see it now - "Yeovil is proud to commemorate the opening of the 'Wasteland' Shopping Centre... "

Yeovil town were beaten to the Conference title in 2001 by the mighty Rushden and Diamonds, pride of those people from Bedfordshire who can't stand Luton (and those from eastern Northants who can't stand Kettering).  Yeovil followed the Diamonds up two years later.   The "Glovers" are currently mid-table in League 1, while Rushden once again languish in the Conference.  This posting has nothing to do with any kind of bitterness in any way.

With thanks to Martin Pakes of Crewkerne for permission to use these images, and to Fraser for alerting us to them.


  1. Sarah Parish, Trevor Peacock, Paddy Ashdown, Beefy, The Christmas Pudding Hedge, we've got plenty of locally born/based celebrities. However it has to be said that (rumour has it) just over the county border in Sherborne they pray 'deliver us from Yeovil'. Which is fair enough - it's murder getting out of here on the Eastbound A30.

  2. To be fair, though, I'd no idea who Sarah Parish was, and had to look her up, although I concede that she is indeed a local celebrity. I notice her brother is on Wikipedia's list as well, and seems to be famous mostly for being Sarah Parish's brother.

  3. I used to help run a CYFA venture and Sarah Parish's sister Julie was a leader one year; Julie does a great impression of Fergie (as in x royal not Man Utd manager). Julie is married to a parish priest/cme officer in Chelmsford Diocese. Sarah has cornered the market in TV baddies - see her Xmas Dr Who performance as Empress of Racnoss and more recently as a Troll in Merlin.

  4. "us"? Are you doing that multiple personality thing again?


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