Saturday, 5 June 2010

Local Faces - Woodbine Willie (1883-1929)

I read in last night's Evening Post that there is an exhibition about Woodbine Willie at the Parish Church until 13th June. Must visit and report back but its being mentioned now as there's not a lot of time left for others to visit.

Geoffrey Anketell Studdert Kennedy was born in 1883 in a vicarage in Quarry Hill, the son of vicar William Studdert Kennedy.

He was an army chaplain during the First World War, serving on the Somme and at Messines Ridge where he was awarded a Military Cross in 1917. He went to Leeds Grammar School and after the war was curate at the Parish Church and St Mary’s Quarry Hill.

His nickname comes from his habit of comforting the weary troops with cigarettes. He was also a poet and his view of the nickname is summed up by him thus:

THEY gave me this name like their nature,
Compacted of laughter and tears,
A sweet that was born of the bitter,
A joke that was torn from the years.

Of their travail and torture, Christ's fools,
Atoning my sins with their blood,
Who grinned in their agony sharing
The glorious madness of God.

Their name! Let me hear it--the symbol
Of unpaid--unpayable debt,
For the men to whom I owed God's Peace,
I put off with a cigarette.

Woodbine Willie died in 1929. He was only 45, but a combination of asthma and overwork brought on his early end. His funeral was in Worcester where he ran a parish. The crowds there were enormous and on his coffin were many wreaths with sentimental notes. One however had no note, just a packet of Woodbines.

Ena Dunn hand stitched this piece on printed fabric (20hours).

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