Hardwicke Drummond Rawnsley joined the RSPB in 1893, became a member of the first Council in 1904 & a Vice-President in 1912. Passionately opposed to the traffic in birds’ plumage, he wrote an effective poem on the subject, ‘My Feathered Lady’ & spoke vigorously in support of the present Plumage Bill at the Society’s Annual Meeting in March last year. He was also particularly sympathetic with the Bird and Tree Movement, & presented the beautiful Cumberland Challenge Shield, which was designed by Mrs Rawnsley.
(Bird Notes and News, 1920-21, Vol. IX, pp. 13-14.)
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The death of Canon Rawnsley is an event that will leave the great majority of his fellow countrymen unmoved. But to those who had fallen directly or indirectly under his magical influence, his departure from this life creates a blank that cannot be filled. There is no one left who in his own particular district breathes the spirit of the beautiful in the same way that Canon Rawnsley did in the land of the English Lakes. The famous Rector of Crosthwaite may almost be said to have been made for the Lake District. When one thought of its physical beauties, of its place in art and song, and of its own rich folk-lore, one quite naturally had visions of the man who in the Twentieth Century, embodied above all the rest the spirit of its genius. It is the ill-fate of every great school, whether in art, literature, or song, to produce a race of feeble imitators. It was given to Canon Rawnsley, in a life of singular beauty amidst congenial surroundings, to worthily hold aloft the Sacred Lamp that had been borne by Wordsworth, by Southey, by Christopher North, and the giants of a past era. Look where we will, we can see no one to fill his place. For the time being at all events the succession to a great tradition must be regarded as broken.
(Derby Daily Telegraph, 1920, 29 May, p. 2.)
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Though scarcely in the ordinary sense of sporting fame, the late Canon H. D. Rawnsley, of Grasmere, was a keen lover of the outdoor life. His delightful chapters on hunting the hare and the fox on the rugged Cumbrian fells, and the otter in the becks of the dales, will long be remembered for their spirit and faithfulness. The Canon, though not of Cumbrian stock, stood for the most worthy of the mountain sports, particularly arousing enthusiasm for the local style of wrestling, for the hound trail and the guides’ race. Few of the notable sheep-dog trials in his locality were without his presence, and shepherds’ meets were his great delight. He tramped many a mile of rough track to reach the less known of these picturesque survivals. Nor did he omit Grasmere Sports from the most crowded years of his life’s work.
(Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News, 1920, 5 June, p. 7.)
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But in the popular mind (writes the “Yorkshire Post” special correspondent), Canon Rawnsley will be chiefly remembered for his interesting dissertations and sketches on the literary associations established by the Lake Poets. He knew them all and no man better. He knew the paths of Wordsworth’s wanderings almost as though he had been by his side, and could recall at will not only the poet’s lines, but the very scenes and images that had moved the poet’s descriptive powers, and ample philosophic reflections. Southey, too, was an open book to him, and Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Wilson and de Quincey. This rich store of knowledge gave to his own writings a wonderful intimacy and freshness.
(Hull Daily Mail, 1920, 29 May, p. 1.)
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His output was enormous and his activity immense. The National Home Reading Union, the Pernicious Literature Committee, the Schools of St. George of Harpenden and of Keswick, the Rylands Library of Manchester, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, were a few of his subsidiary occupations. He was a Proctor in Convocation, he was Honorary Chaplain to the King, and he served as chaplain, with the rank of Colonel, to the Border Regiment of the Territorial Force. But perhaps his chief work was perhaps the founding of the National Trust for the Preservation of Places of Historic Interest and Natural Beauty. . . . .
It is no exaggeration to say—and it is much to say of anyone—that England would be a much duller and less heathy and happy country if he had not lived and worked.
(Times, 1920, 29 May, p. 11.)
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Probably more than one Bristolian was reminded at the week end of the late Canon Rawnsley’s “Book of Bristol Sonnets,” and by perusing it once again revived memories of the poet’s impressions of local objects of interest and important happenings of forty years or so ago. When in Bristol the curate of the Clifton College Mission at St. Agnes not only visited numerous historic places and beauty spots in and around the city, but he also was present at a number of events of public interest, and many of the are dealt with in his verses. After he went North Canon Rawnsley kept a friendly eye on Bristol affairs, and when the agitation against the quarrying on the face of the Avon Gorge was active in 1904 he sought to strengthen it by writing to the Press some lines which observant readers have probably added to his collection of sonnets. The Canon, who was an enthusiastic admirer of Nature, expressed his strong views, and gave his lines the title, “The Cry of the Avon Banks.”
Shall it be said that in these latter days—
When in the stress of labour, labour’s need
Was rest, and poor men’s eyes were all agreed
At nobler worth fair nature to appraise—
That our great merchant princes failed to raise
A voice of protest for this cruel deed;
And silent bade the rocks of Avon bleed—
Heart-broken that no hand the mischief stays!
Far better had St. Brandon never brought
His sister Brigha, to proclaim the love
Of God, for all the beauty He had made,
Than at the beck of mammon-blinded trade
Let Avon through its naked ruin move,
And bitter shame on Bristol’s name be wrought.
(Western Daily Press, 1920, 2 June, p. 5.)
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The death of Canon Rawnsley . . . removes a figure which in certain ranges of public duty and usefulness was of national significance. But most of all his intimate personality and earnest zeal for all good causes will be most missed in his beloved Lakeland, with the abundant literary lore of which he had steeped himself during a residency there of close upon 40 years. He was a man of great energy, and his clerical duties alone, as Residentiary Canon of Carlisle and Vicar of Crosthwaite, Keswick, would have taxed the resources of most men; but he found time to engage in a wide field of public and social activity; he was at the head of more than one national movement; and during his long span of years in the Lake Country he was the busiest man in it with his pen, composing sonnets with facility upon any striking aspect of scenery that caught his practised eye, or upon the hundred and one passing events of the age and time in which he lived. When occasion demanded, his muse would take a somewhat higher flight, and in the course of the war he composed many stirring ballads on the heroism of our soldiers and the justice of the cause for which they fought. The touchstone of his literary work was always a very close contact with life around him, and especially the life of the homely dalesmen, with whom he spent the best years of his ministry. There was no one better known in the wide stretches of Cumberland and Westmorland.
(Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer, 1920, 29 May, p. 10.)
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He was my junior by three years, so that I did not witness his development from the young boy into the VI Form boy, in which capacity he gave proof of his quality. But I remember his physical vigour in the earlier stage, and his great assiduity (too great I thought, for it seemed somewhat to restrict the growth of his stature) to exercise in the old gymnasium. Later he just missed the School Athletic Championship, and the energy of his attack in the single-stick competition is spoken of almost with awe by an eye witness. I belive, too, and remembering his fearless but successful intercourse with Jowett, this terror of undergrads, I readily believe that his power of answering divinity questions in Thring's classroom (those who know them will understand me) was almost unexampled. Already at school he was in these ways the 'Hardie' of later life. But for my own tribute to his memory I will reserve two things, and these of higher import. The first is that he seems to me to have had a career of very perfect self-fulfilment. In the race of a mortal time he was one of those able runners who succeed in putting forth all the strength that is in them, and 'running themselves out.' I mean that he was able to make the gifts of mind and spirit which were his do all or nearly all the work for social good of which they were capable, and this he did, not as powerful but selfish characters may do from the sense and pride of self-realisation, bit out of . . . of his fellow-men and of righteous causes.
The other is still fitter for these pages of the School Magazine. He was in the fullest sense a son of the School that reared him. In his character and career he carried the Uppingham 'legend', which is not legendary but is living fact. His godfather, Edward Thring, was very truly father in God to his godson. That word which was ever on his great teacher's lips, 'true life', a mystic word and more clearly realised perhaps in the soul than in the mind of its speaker, has been nobly and luminously interpreted by the vivid career of generous social helpfulness which is the story of Hardie Rawnsley. In that life of vital service the master will have seen an answer to his prayer for a pupil that he should 'here or elsewhere still continue the living life which Christ has given us here'.
[Extract from the obituary written by John Huntley Skrine and printed in Uppingham School Magazine, 1920, pp. 119-123.]
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