CHARLES IGGLESDEN the Preface to Thomas Post’s Book of Poetry (1903)

Sir Charles Igglesden by Lafayette (Lafayette Ltd), half-plate nitrate negative, 1 February 1928, © National Portrait Gallery, London

PREFACE

It was on a cold December day of 1899 that I first saw Thomas Post. As Editor of the Kentish Express I had instituted a War Fund for the benefit of the sufferers by the Anglo-Boer War, and one day an old gentleman-one of Nature’s true gentlemen-walked into my office. He had trudged into Ashford from the village of Wye, a distance of four miles. Old and weather-beaten he looked, and the stick he carried scarcely sufficed to keep him upright. But though storm and rain and hard outdoor work had made havoc with his frame, a glance at his sparkling, though deep-set, eyes proved that his intelligence was in no way dimmed. And when he spoke it was equally apparent that his mind was as clear as minds of men half his age. For he had then lived over four-score years. “I have come,” said he, “to see if I can help your War Fund. I have no money, but everyone should do his little bit. I wish to help if you will only let me.”   Then from his capacious pocket he drew the scroll of manuscript. “There,” said he, his eyes glistening with pardonable pride, “I wrote these lines myself. I should like to sell them and give the money to the soldiers’ widows and orphans.” The offer was accepted, the poem was printed, and this good-hearted old fellow tramped the country far and near, and gave the entire proceeds of the sale of his verses to the War Fund. They will be found in this volume under the title of “When Briton fought Boer.”

Since that. December day in 1899, I have seen Thomas Post on many occasions, and he’s always the same-profoundly grateful   for   the   least kindness, honest to the back-bone, strong in his faith, content with his present life and hopeful of the future. He is entirely   self-educated, and after spending a few years in the Army, became a shepherd.   Rhyming has come naturally to him-a gift which in a highly-educated man might have led to the loftiest steps of the ladder of fame. But for the alteration of a word here and there, the verses in the volume are left just as he wrote them – crude, but strangely flavoured with the intense earnestness that characterises their author. The manuscript was written in capital   letters   only, as these are the only letters he understands.

In conclusion, I might add that Thomas Post is a famous old bellringer, having rung peals in fifty-three different churches in Kent during the past seventy years. Even as a child he had a marked predilection for bells, and he tells of the days of his boyhood when lie produced his first chimes on tome old scythes he had found in an outbuilding at home. The most notable event of his career was the establishment of a ringing record for East Kent in May 1846. This took place at St. Leonard’s Tower, Hythe, where 13,440 changes were rung in seven hours fifty-five minutes. The chiming was commenced at eight o’clock in the morning, and the ringers kept steadily on for just upon eight hours without rest or refreshment.

It is to be hoped that some benefit from the sale of this book may be reaped by this sturdy old Man of Kent.

CHARLES   IGGLESDEN.

Ashford, December 31st, 1902.