I thought I’d tell you a true story with a moral this morning because I’m getting tired of being told that we should get behind the present incompetent ruling party and support them instead of criticising them as they richly deserve – and I feel in that sort of mood. So here goes.
My hero was a country bumpkin, like the two in these pictures, and he was a distant and very close relation of mine, who originally lived in a village called Westward Ho, which was near Bideford in Devon. His parents were farm labourers and lived in a tied cottage that belonged to their Lord of the Manor. By all accounts they were hard working, unassuming people, who worked hard and did as they were told. His mother curtsied when she saw any of the gentry approaching and his father either touched his cap or pulled the forelock of his hair. But their son Jessie was a firebrand.
The Lord of the Manor’s son was young and arrogant, used to getting his own way among the yokels. Naturally. He was a member of the ruling class and they were only labourers. It was his habit of an evening to ride into one or other of his father’s various villages on one or other of his well groomed horses and take a drink or two in the local pub. There was always a group of local lads standing around outside the pub and when he arrived he would dismount and toss the reins to the nearest boy with the lordly command, ‘Boy! Hold my hoss!’ And the boy would obediently hold the horse for him until he came out of the pub, and then ‘make a back’ for him so that he could mount and the young gentleman would toss him a threepenny bit as a reward. Until the evening he tossed the reins to Jesse Garnsworthy.
I think he’d had a few by then but he was bold by nature. Instead of catching the reins, he stood his ground, looked up at his master’s son and said. ‘You hold yer own bloody hoss!’ The young man must have been rather surprised to be answered in such a way but he didn’t say anything, he simply threw the reins to another boy.
But of course that wasn’t the end of the story. The next morning the Bailiffs arrived at his father’s cottage with a one way railway ticket to London. Jesse was to be on the train that morning or his family would be out of their cottage and out of their jobs by the end of the week. They couldn’t argue because the Lord of the Manor owned their labour and their home. So Jesse went to London. And that should have been the end of the matter.
But it wasn’t, because Jesse was a determined cuss and somehow or other he got a job on one of the daily newspapers on Fleet Street. By the time I was a small child and sitting at his feet happily listening to his stories, he was a compositor working for the Daily Herald and in his own words, ‘comfortably off’.
There are two morals to this story.
One is ‘Nil desperandum’ or ‘Don’t let the buggers grind you down.’
And the other is the motto of all courageous newspapers. ‘Speak truth to power’.