Poetry column with Maurice Spillane of Poetry Swindon
I wish I’d met Rachel Fisher.
She was the last resident of the medieval village of Snap, just off the Ridgeway.
She left Snap around 1905 after her husband died. I bet she could tell a story or two. I did a lot of research on Snap before hiking up there with two friends recently, Alison and David.
We found the wood, which has overgrown the outline of the village houses, but they are easy to discern, as are box hedges on the boundary of properties. We located the well which is on the right at the turn on the main path.
It did feel strange as if we were there without permission, the breeze objecting and our boots crackling wood like broken bones to annoy the ghosts.
The quietness was special, special like entering a city cathedral away from the city sounds.
I’ve encountered this before in villages in Ireland deserted during the Famine. The link from that to the impact of the Corn Laws on farm labour in Snap was not lost on me.
We raised a glass of whiskey to Alison’s mother whose first anniversary it was. That felt really appropriate.
She’d been a schoolteacher and the lines of the poem “The Deserted Village” by Oliver Goldsmith, which I’d learned by heart in school, resonated in my head.
Real people like Rachel Fisher lived here as children, lovers, parents. These few lines capture the positives.
How often have I paused on every charm,
The sheltered cot, the cultivated farm,
The never-failing brook, the busy mill,
The decent church that topped the neighbouring hill,
The hawthorn bush, with seats beneath the shade,
For talking age and whispering lovers made!
Look up Kenneth Watts on YouTube if you’d like to know more about Snap. It’s well worth a visit.