A Tribute to Tubby

I was recently contacted by a man who was decluttering his garage. He had come across two volumes given to him by a friend some years ago which, in turn, had come from a house clearance in Hindhead many years earlier. One contained a number of family and personal photographs whilst the second is an extraordinary collection of poetry, largely by the person who collated it. The poetry goes back to 1916 when the author was still a boy and comes forward to 1965 when he transferred his later poems – written on scraps of paper at different stages of his life – into the notebook. Amongst the poems are several with a Toc H theme which is how I came into the story and now hold the book in my hand. The author’s name was quite familiar to me as he appeared in my recent Barclay Baron story on several occasions but I realised I knew little about him. That research is underway and I will publish a blog about him and his poetry in due course but in the meantime, I wanted to share just one of the poems. So this readers, as a taster, is a poem by the Reverend Geoffrey Batchelar written to celebrate Tubby’s 80th birthday.

I don’t know if this was ever published but it didn’t appear in The Journal of the time. Instead the December 1965 edition contained a few stanzas by Edmund Blunden about the Jubilee Celebrations in Poperinge earlier in the year.

Since its rather a short blog, I have illustrated it with a few less commonly seen photos of Tubby. The original poem is also reproduced as well as a transcription.

“Tubby’s 80th”

An unseen cloud of witnesses
A multitude of men
Who preach the word, who listen,
Who wield the mighty pen?

Men, in every walk of life
Who speak or who are dumb,
And men who, from your wisdom,
Have picked up just a crumb

Now join together, heart and soul,
To give to God his praise,
Who raised you as their leader
And set them on their ways.

Men, for fifty years now –
At Talbot House in ‘Pop’,
In Toc H here and every where –
Have seen you at the top.

And many a man on ship and shore
Has clasped your hand as friend,
And found you as their anchor
Until their journey’s end. —-

We’ve watched you on your pilgrimage
Lonely, at times (it seems) –
A young man seeing visions,
An old man dreaming dreams.

We’ve seen you at our Guest Nights,
Inspiring one and all;
We’ve shared your prayers and praises
In Chapel, Mark and Hall.

We’ve watched the high and mighty.
We’ve watched the great and small.
Listening to your wisdom –
A little bit for all.

We’ve watched Tower Hill Improvement,
The joy of “Children’s Beach” –
Achievement of ambition
Outside most mortals’ reach.

We’ve seen the Marks grow one by one,
The Branches multiply,
As Toc H spreads around the globe
Its love to fortify

The leper has been given hope
When BELRA you inspired;
The keen imagination of
A hundred men you fired.

The “Winant Volunteers” you brought
To help in the “East End”;
And so with “Clayton Volunteers”
“The States” made many a friend.

And so to you, dear “Tubby”,
(Though many mem’ries fade)
We bring you a reminder
Of all these friendships made

In Persia, “Pompey”, Poperinghe,
In Tooting, on Tower Hill,
In Pimlico and Paddington,
Malta and far Woodville,

Kalgoorlie and Calcutta,
In Petworth and Painswick,
At Broken Hill and Bloemfontein,
At Winnipeg and Wick,

In “Beagle” and “Acasta”,
In mighty grey “Q.E.”,
On the Rock of Gibraltar,
On land and on the sea,

On SS “Almanzora”,
On tanker, trawl and train,
In Jerez-de-la-frontera,
In Portugal and Spain,

At Knutsford and All Hallows,
At Abadan and Ryde –
Where’ve your foot has landed,
And many a place beside…..

We one and all now greet you,
(Wherever we may be),
At your great age of 80-
(Toc H’s Jubilee).

May these few lines remind you
Of what we tried to say-
That Thousands owe a debt to you
They never can repay