Contributed by jean Riddell
Hertford Revisited from the Nicholls’ Scrap Book. No date but thought to be circa World War One
“Dear Hertford! Once again I see then,
Haunt of fair women, home of gallant men;
What happy times I spent between thy walls,
Delightful days which memory fond recalls!
And then how fair and varied were those days,
Would I had Chesher’s harp to hymn thy praise!
“And, first of all the Mayor and Corporation
Won my affection, aye, my veneration;
Many a night I feasted with the Mayor,
So choice the wines, so generous the fare,
Each guest would find it hard to leave his chair;
Then, homeward bound, we heard the midnight chimes.
Ahl William Frampton Andrews, those were times.
“Next I first nearly every sport inviting,
I whipt the Mimram and the Beane for whiting,
Sometimes in the chase of fox fell from my horse
Or missed the pheasant in her winding course,
Or stalked the deer in Hartham’s mead that graze,
Ah! those were happy days, were happy days!
“My social duties did I ne’er neglect,
On summer morns in silken vest bedeckt,
On all the leading families I made calls,
Peg’s Lane, Panshanger, Woodhall Hatfield, Balls
(Cheerful Pegslaners – all of us have our failings,
Yours was for kindling-wood to glean my palings).
“In spring I marched out as a Volunteer,
Bore Wroughton’s language, flavoured but sincere,
How hard he worked – and swore, till in his room
Slept Sworder, touched with no ascetic gloom. –
In many a camp beneath great Longmore’s banner
Formed fours in quite the regulation manner,
In autumn packed with comforts my valise
For the manoeuvres – strenuous days were these.
“The Borough grew and grew (Pray Mr. Mayor
Is that new railway line still in the air?)
And nearly all of us sat on committees.
(I sometimes thought it was a thousand pities
So many sub-committees were begun
But earthly business this way must be done)
And then the County Council – I’m afraid
They were not popular those rates we made –
Halsey presided: who more fitted than
This fine old-fashioned English gentleman?
On spending Salisbury frowned a general frown.
Stride, a brave bull-dog, pulled his critics down,
Pank, on whose brow deliberation sate,
Explained the Education estimate
Widford’s good George Pawle cousel took and tea
With Cheshunt’s good George Paul – par nobile.
”Our politics were also very good,
And on intellectual level stood;
Smith would commend in periods unmatched,
‘The principles to which we are all attached’.
Croft for Protection fiery speeches made,
Barnard gave vent to many a strong tirade,
And Holland-Hibbert raved against ‘The Trade’,
While William Graveson proved that war would cease.
Graveson, the gentle turtle-dove of peace,
These speakers, sure, deserve a poet’s lays,
Yes, those were happy days, were happy days.
“And sometimes we would bend our efforts all
To matters more ecclesiastical;
We built a church and then we built her tower,
To fill it was a task beyond our power,
Much more I could dilate on were there time
To put my recollections into rhyme;
Vivid before my mind these memories flow,
And yet, alasl They seem so long ago.
I must put down my pen with real sorrow
And pack, because we move again tomorrow.
“Hertford our London lads have felt thy charm,
Whom thou hast welcomed with an open arm,
Thy sons no longer tread thy ancient ways,
They’re vanished – like those far-off happy days.
At once they sprang to arms, they did not tail,
Needing no shattered Club to point the tale;
Married and single joined, rejoined, their troops,
Urging no peddling plea for Later Groups.
Their livelihoods they left, their homes, their all,
Simply because they heard their country’s call.
We too, will do our duty, never fear.
So, Ave atque vale, Hertford dear!”
It is difficult to tell if this poem was written by one of the Nicholls family, although it was discovered in their scrap-book at Hertfordshire Archive & Local Studies. The reference to the writer’s palings being taken for kindling wood suggests that he might have had a boundary with Peg’s Lane. Nicholls’ Brewery was in West Street. Suggestions?