Mr. John James was one who inspired trust, with his slow dignified steady gait which never altered, even when he was in a hurry – or in a temper! Punctuality was his main theme and Miss Taylor who worked for him met his firm approval – simply by being punctual! John James did not agree with British Summer Time. It interfered with his punctuality. Therefore his clocks kept the Correct Time even when everyone else’s was an hour different. He had to abide by the new time for the Church services though.
I don’t quite know how he arranged time with the Choir Outing, but somehow they all met at the right time. There were 24 members of the Choir to take on the outing. Most of them travelled on John James’ hay wagon driven by one of the Simmonds brothers. Some of the men walked and some went on bikes to Milcote Station – but what a start-off they had! People stopped to wave to them. Children raced the wagon along the village street waving and cheering. Then at Milcote station, Mr. James packed them into the train to go to places like Stanton, Stanway, Hale, Sudeley Castle and the Malverns.
Farmers at these villages laid out trestle tables and benches for the Choir who then fed on cold beef, pickles, and hunks of fresh bread, followed by an enormous apple pie, all provided by the host farmer and his wife. Sudeleigh Castle had an added attraction of a maze, but elsewhere it was just games for the children and a social chat for the adults.
The homecoming was just as triumphant as the going. Sharp eyes noticed one of the Simmonds boys going towards Milcote with an empty hay wagon. From then on, a look-out was kept at The Pound, and as soon as the laden hay wagon was seen returning with 24 very happy but tired Choir members, the children would accompany it along the village street cheering, and people would come out of their houses to wave. The homecoming wasn’t so good for the Choir children though, for with each child, as Clifford drew near, was the fact that the next school day, they would have to write a composition about the outing. Miss Wilding never attended the Choir outing, but she knew exactly what went on, and woe betide any child who left anything out, or produced a bad spelling, or put a full stop where a semi-colon should be.
Mr. James was Churchwarden for a good number of years; lived in Orchard House and farmed the land at the back of the house. David, Frank and Austin Simmonds worked for him under time that existed before 1916 i.e. before British Summer Time came into being! Mrs. James was an invalid, looked after by two of her daughters and was only seen when she was taken for a walk in her wheelchair. She suffered terribly from rheumatics and needed a housekeeper to help her. She had the delightful name of Zillah Leonora May, but was known by her brothers and sisters as Buzzy!! Another tragedy that befell Mr. James was when his horses had a bad attack of anthrax and had to be burnt in his yard.
The most terrible tragedy for both of them was the death of their oldest son, killed in action during the 1st World War. Later, there was more grief when their grandson was killed in action during the Second World War. Then, in 1956, they had a surprise visit from Lord Harrowby of Sudeleigh Castle. He had come to express his deep sorrow over the tragic death of one of the best agents his father had ever had!
Milton’s death, killed in action, had been almost forty years earlier! However, what Lord Harrowby had to say about the James’ oldest son and the way such a young man was respected on the Sudeleigh estate became a loved treasure to Mr. and Mrs. James.
Dear Mr. James in his dark suit and bowler hat with his slow, dignified stately, steady walk, removed his hat, entered a packed Church; walked slowly and steadily with his straight back to his seat; gave a long steely look at the person who dared to sit in His Place in His Pew; turned - and with his slow, dignified, stately, steady walk went back along the aisle and straight out of Church. He wasn’t going to attend the Church service unless he sat in His Pew!
They don’t make Churchwardens like that nowadays!