The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #58887   Message #1217213
Posted By: GUEST,Barrie Roberts
30-Jun-04 - 03:07 PM
Thread Name: Cornwall UK WWII deserter query
Subject: RE: Cornwall UK WWII deserter query
Having just come across my old song on your site, I thought you might like the real story.

In 1960 I spent some time in Callington, working for HMG, and stayed at Chubbs' Private Hotel, kept by the 3 maiden ladies Chubb. Because I kept odd hours and frequently worked evenings, the proprietors would sometimes invite me into tht back kitchen late for a cuppa.

Chubbs was primarily a commercial hotel, full of reps & travellers, but a woman had stayed there on her own for one night that spring and the owners seemed to know who she was. They told me the story in the song, and told me that their guest (who was the dead man's sister) came every spring from somewhere near London to trim her brother's grave.

I always thought it might make a good song, but it never seemed to jell, so I laid it aside. In 1973 I was on a N.Sea ferry, bound for Denmark, and sharing the boat with the Birmingham Mail Ladies' Group, or some such, most of whom were completely kalied and falling about noisily. Sitting alone in the lounge, watching the sea and listening to the distant thud of falling drunks, I recalled the old Victorian hack ballad 'The Deserter' and started to set my tale to it. The text Steve has given you is vrtually word for word as I wrote it that night.

When people began to ask for the words I published them as a broadsheet, and it also appeared in 'SONGSMITH' magazine. In the following year a clerical friend of mine visited Callington and found the grave in the 'overflow' churchyard and photographed it for me. It was spring again and the grave was clean and had fresh flowers, so she was still keeping faith with her brother 30 years on. I wont give the name on the stone, but it's a military headstone and the dates give it away if you want to look.

My friend found that the town had entirely forgotten the event by 1974.

Thanks for remembering the song, Steve, and thanks for remembering someone who probably just wanted to be left alone.