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Gifted sons of Severn

PUBLISHED: 13:57 27 October 2011 | UPDATED: 20:12 20 February 2013

Severn Vale by Steve Cooper.

Severn Vale by Steve Cooper.

A major event in Gloucester on November 7 2011 is celebrating the bonds between three gifted friends: F.W. Harvey, Ivor Gurney and Herbert Howells

Gifted sons of Severn

A major event in Gloucester on Saturday, November 5 2011 is celebrating the bonds between three gifted friends: F.W. Harvey, Ivor Gurney and Herbert Howells

One hundred years ago a special bond was formed between three men: a composer, a poet, and a man dually gifted in both arts. They shared a close friendship in the years before the First World War, and all three went on to make outstanding contributions to the cultural life of Britain in the twentieth century. They walked and talked together in the beautiful Gloucestershire countryside surrounding the River Severn, drawing inspiration from the landscape and from each other but the War was to change their lives forever. The F.W. Harvey, Ivor Gurney and Herbert Howells Societies are combining their efforts on Saturday afternoon on November 5 at Kings School Gloucester to present an insight into their relationship and promote the legacy of these remarkable men. There will be an introduction by Dame Janet Trotter DBE, Lord Lieutenant of Gloucestershire followed by presentations, exhibits and discussion from all three societies.

The pivotal figure in the relationship, F.W. Harvey, became a nationally famous poet and author. He later became a popular Forest character working as a solicitor in Lydney. He was an enthusiastic sportsman. He continued to write poems and sing, and became a BBC broadcaster advocating for the Forest of Dean and Foresters. In 1938 the BBC recorded Will Harvey reading five of his poems, memorably featuring November, a haunting poem, and Elvers his delightful humorous celebration of the River Severn. Will Harvey studied Forest dialect, folklore and traditions and was recorded reciting Warning, a darkly humorous poem embracing stories from various parts of the Forest. The event will be used to launch a new book: F.W. Harvey: Selected Poems, edited by Anthony Boden and R.K.R. Thornton. The book includes a CD of all 64 poems that are in the book. Recorded by professional actors, the CD includes the five rare BBC archive recordings from 1938 of Will Harvey reading his own poems.

The afternoon will feature many of these recordings as well as musical compositions. The work of F.W. Harvey was set to music by his two friends, both of whom became highly successful composers. His creative partnership with Ivor Gurney was brought to an end by his friends decline into mental illness and premature death in 1937. Herbert Howells went on to become a Companion of Honour (1972) in recognition of his services to music.

Maurice Bent, Forest of Dean Verderer, author and President of the Herbert Howells Society (Forest of Dean) says, We are delighted to be part of this afternoon, which is a landmark event. I am especially pleased and honoured that Dame Janet Trotter will be joining us. These three Gloucestershire figures were remarkable and they loved their home county. They brought national attention to the landscape and beauty of Gloucestershire.

Roger Deeks, chair of the F.W. Harvey Society says, These three men and their achievements were an inspiration. It was a brilliant idea to have this event at the centenary of their coming together when they inspired each other with ideas, music and literature. They had things to say that are timeless, and we hope more people will become interested in them through this event. It is especially significant to be holding the event at Kings School where Harvey and Gurney were pupils.

For further details email For Information about tickets see

Warning F.W. Harvey

A man there was, a gentle soul,

Of mild enquiring mind,

Who came into this neighbourhood

Its wonders for to find [ ]

They told him who had put the lid

On Lydney; who the ale

Misspelt in Aylburton. And he

Delighted in the tale.

And still, like little Oliver,

He softly asked for more;

And with the utmost courtesy

Was answered as before.

Until one sleepy summers eve

He came all unaware

Unto a place called Ruardean,

And asked Who killed the bear?

The man arose and punched him flat;

Another punched his head,

And when the rest had done with him

Our gentle friend was dead.

The moral of this simple tale

Is plain. Dear friend, beware!

If you should visit Ruardean

Dont mention any bear.

If you should climb to Yorkley Slad

Pause not to question why

They put a pig upon the wall

To see the band go by.

And if your feet so far should stray

As Dymock, lest some hurt

Befall you, make no mention of

The man without a shirt.

Nine lives have cats, and you but one:

Risk not that gift of God!

Its better to be ignorant

Than dead beneath the sod.


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