I have a brief, but very vivid recollection of Canon Rawnsley towards the end of his life.
My father, Jack Hardisty, was a farm worker and quarry-man in Grasmere. He was brought up in a large family at Turn How, a cottage high up between Steel Fell and Helm Crag, by the fall gate on the track through Greenburn to Borrowdale.
Five of the Hardisty brothers joined up during the First World War and four of them fought in France. Two, my father and his brother Josh, were killed.
In 1917 Canon Rawnsley wrote a poem to Grandma Hardisty and her sons. I have a completely isolated, but sharp recollection of this large old man towering above my two sisters and I (we were all under five) in this tiny room where we lived with my widowed mother at Down End, Grasmere.
I think he must have been gathering background for the poem. He was very irascible, I distinctly remember him saying sternly “Can you not keep this child quiet”, because one of my sisters was crying.
I do not know why this single incident has remained so clearly in my mind. I do know that all my life I have equated the visual appearance of God with this picture I have of Canon Rawnsley in that room on that occasion.
I have a framed copy of the poem . . . It is typed and has the signature H. D. Rawnsley, Allan Bank, August, 1917.
To the Mother of Four Sons Gone to War
Sergeant Joshua Hardisty M.M. 11th Battalion Border Regt., fell in action Nov. 18th; John Hardisty 1st Border Regt., fell in action July 30th, 1916. Two brothers, Harry and Walter, are still at the front.
Mother of four sons gone to the war
Hark: how the stream mourns loud in the hollow
Two have fallen in fields afar
Two still the foemen follow.
Was it for this you reared each boy
In the calm of the dale and peace of the mountains
For this, their young hearts leapt with joy
And rush of Greenburn’s fountains.
For this that they borrowed strength of the hills
And freedom born of the torrent’s foaming,
The sycamore buds and the daffodils
And cuckoo’s call in the gloaming.
So nursed in their hearts the love of home,
That swift when they heard our England calling,
They answered. “O Mother we come, we come.”
Left painter’s work and walling.
For this, in defence of Grasmere vale
They topped the parapet, bombed the trenches
Endured the terrible shrapnel hail,
Blood, mud, and the battle-stenches.
For this, from the cottage beneath Helm-Crag
And not for the sake of a medal’s glory
They went to offer their lives for the Flag
And Honour’s ancient story ?
Weep not mother; rejoice with pride!
No more the stream mourns loud in the hollow
But it roars applause for the twain who died
And twain who the foemen follow.
[Note: Mrs Hardisty’s youngest son James is also in training.]
(Source - RR/9/2)
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