Maureen Anne Browne - Poems

My Place in the Sun

Those days of sitting in the shade,
Of growing up too fast,
Of feeling I was missing out,
Of hoping pain won't last,   

Those days were days of being hurt,
And tears were far from gone;
They gently came and bathed my cheeks
As I went on and on.

As I went on through loneliness,
When laughter teased me so.
And envy tried to take my dream
I wouldn't let it go.

Upon your well built walls I looked,
And saw a vision fair
Of history seeping through your stones,
And dreamed of being there.

'Twas you renewed my fervour then,
My pen it swifter flowed,
And sacred learning's door more near
What PASSION you bestowed.

The day I reached those hallowed halls,
When getting there was done,
' Twas worth a thousand, thousand hurts,
For MY place in the sun.

The Vicar of Hutton Roof

Theodore Bayley Hardy was born in Exeter on 20th October, 1863. He and his brother Ernest were educated in the early years by their mother. Their father died when Theodore was only three years old. The two boys then boarded at the City of London School. Theodore went on to London university and graduated with a B.A. in 1889. He had married Florence, an Irish girl, the previous year. Two children, Elizabeth and William, soon followed.
     Hardy pursued a successful teaching career culminating in the Headmastership of Bentham Grammar School for boys. This was a fee-paying boarding school. His wife was a great support to him and both were loved and respected in the school and the wider community.
     Alongside his teaching career Hardy had been ordained a Deacon in the Church of England and then licensed as a Curate of Burton-Joyce.
     In spite of poor eyesight Hardy was a keen sportsman encouraging the boys in a wide range of outdoor pursuits and taught by example.
     Hardy's wife became seriously ill in 1913 and this prompted a move to a less demanding occupation as Vicar of Hutton Roof in Westmorland. Here Hardy nursed his wife until her death in 1914.
     When war broke out Hardy, by now fifty one years old, tried several times to enlist as Chaplain to the Forces but younger men kept getting preference. He trained in ambulance work and pursued his objective of getting to the Front. He succeeded and was attached to the 8th Lincolns arriving near Lens in one of the worst winters on record.
      The 8th Somersets were soon added to his care. He was transferred to Arras in March 1917 and then to the Ypres Salient at the end of June, and remained there until March 1918. From there he went to Gommecourt, ten miles north of Albert, and was there until August. He was in the Final Offensive until he was wounded east of Cambrai. From there he was taken to the military hospital in Rouen where he died on 18th October, 1918. He was buried in St. Sever military cemetery in Rouen, France.
     For exceptional acts of gallantry Theodore Bayley Hardy was awarded the V.C. D.S.O. and M.C. He was also accorded the honour of Chaplain to the King by George V.

A man who loved the country ways
He'd walk among the Fells,
Have summer nights upon the Cragg
With glow-worms weaving spells.

His home was in a splendid place
Where every view would please:
The rolling hills of Cumbria
With Beech and Chestnut trees.

The gentle folk of Hutton Roof
Would find an open door:
A tramp was given a decent meal
And often he got more.

With courtesies well honoured here
The pace of life was slow,
But men were dying out in France;
He knew he had to go.

A slight and ageing country man,
With eyes that often failed.
He tried to join up many times
But younger men prevailed.

This self-effacing saint of God
Determined to be heard:
Insisted he was fit enough -
They took him at his word:

Conferred on him a Captain's rank,
As Chaplain he's fourth class,
His uniform and Maltese Cross,
His all-important Pass.

Etaples had a haunted look
With thousands passing through
Like animals for slaughtering,
And little he could do.

He knew his place was at the Front
And won the right to go
As Padre to the Lincolnshires,
And these he'd get to know.

A service was of little use;
From thousands he'd get ten.
He found a better way than that -
Go through it with the men.  

To trenches that were troughs of sludge
With walls of ice and snow.
And frost enough to kill a man,
The Padre chose to go.

He hauled his body through the mire:
To every post he'd come
With fresh supplies and cigarettes
And time to read to some.

It wasn't just a now and then,
But every night for sure
And every battle they were in
The Padre would endure.

He'd dress their wounds and talk to them,
Distract them from the pain
And the shells still screeching round them.
The never-ending rain.

For every soldier that had died
The proper thing was done:
Through hails of fire he said 'the words'
And stood for every one.

They've roses now in Hutton Roof:
Here everything is Black
Except for poppies in the mud,
But there's no turning back.

The fighting got much fiercer still
For Passchendale was worse
And tons of mud were sliding down
Like some Satanic curse.

All night he pulled them from the swamp:
For every friend he'd fight.
There was no letting up on this;
For them he'd do it right.

He praised the deeds of other men
And shied away from fame.
It was with great unease he wore
The medals when they came.

The Bishop tried to keep him safe
By urging him to come
To Caldbeck in a country shire
And for a princely sum.

The Padre hoped he'd not offend,
But felt constrained to say
The Front was where he ought to be
And that's where he would stay.

Before the Germans sued for peace
Their gunners still had fight:
The Padre's friends were raked with fire
And cut down in his sight.

As always, he looked after them:
His quiet loving style
Transcending all the ugliness.
His reassuring smile.

They're on the fringe of winter now
And plans were going well:
His friends had taken up their place
Across the river Selle.

He joined them for a little while
To chat, or just be near.
And then when he was going back
A shot rang out so clear.

They'd never see his face again:
That cheeky childlike grin.
The Padre whom they loved was dead -
They couldn't take it in.

No longer would he come to them
Through mist or snow or rain
To calm them when they shook with fear.
To palliate their pain.

The young lads and the hardened men
Felt utterly bereft:
He'd been so much a part of them
An awful void was left.

He came with unconditional love
And 'Woodbines' in his pack:
Went through the fires of hell with them
And never once turned back.

Maureen Browne