This time David and I were off to Weymouth to meet renowned local William Barnes’ expert and biographer, Dr Alan Chedzoy.
The charming Dr Chedzoy – Alan – showed us into his delightful home and we sat at a table “older than Canada” to record the interview.
Alan told us of the man himself “a dear sweet man, throughout his life people commented on his kindness, his attention to his pupils when he was a schoolmaster, his awareness of the country folk and his feeling for them. He was a lovely man, with a pronounced sense of humour. He was serious without being solemn, a great scholar, the prime example of a self-educated man and yet he never lost touch with the ordinary things of life. He was just a lovely man.”
We spoke about his years as Rector of Winterbourne Came and Whitchurch; a role he continued to fulfill until the end of his life, tramping all over his parish on foot, regularly visiting all his parishioners.
We spoke at length about his poetry, particularly discussing the contrast between his dialect poetry and those poems written in “English”. We heard how Barnes struggled to reach a wider audience (outside Dorset) for his dialect poems during his lifetime. They were looked down upon “because they were written in dialect” but as Alan explained, the content and structure and complex feelings contained within these poems were in fact far superior to the non-dialect ones, which “could have been written by any Victorian country vicar at the end of any English country lane”.
We were keen for Alan to recite some of these poems, and he didn’t disappoint. He gave us “The Child an’ the Mowers”, “The Witch” and “The Geate a-Vallen to”. When Alan read these poems his voice changed from his very careful scholarly tones to a rich rolling Dorset. We were transported by the musicality of the sound. And I had the strangest feeling that somehow Alan had morphed into
William Barnes himself!
It was hard to tear ourselves away but after a quick tutorial on the subject of one of his more unusual paintings, we bid our farewells and thanks and wended our way homeward, taking just a little of old Dorset with us I think.