THE SUN came out and shone on Tuesday when the 30th commemoration of the life of Bromsgrove poet AE Housman was held in the town centre.
This year’s event, because of the way Easter fell, took place three days after Housman’s actual birthday – March 26, 1859.
The outgoing chairman of the Housman Society Jim Page presided over the occasion for the last time and the guest for the day was Dennis Norton.
Last year Mr Norton made a vital contribution to improving the statue when it had to be moved as part of the High Street regeneration programme.
Mr Page spoke about famous Bromsgrovians and Mr Norton read the second poem from Housman’s A Shropshire Lad: ‘Loveliest of Trees, the Cherry Tree Now’.
Mr Page told The Standard: “It was a very jolly and light-hearted occasion.
“Dennis did an amazing job to ensure the statue looked its best when it was returned to the High Street and he was a worthy guest of honour for the commemoration.”
Afterwards, there was a lunch served at Bromsgrove School.
Max Hunt, the son of Joe Hunt who founded the Housman Society, will replace Mr Page as the new chairman.
Below is the speech given by outgoing chairman Jim Page
Civic Head of Bromsgrove District Council, Councillor Caroline Spencer, Guest of the Day, Dennis Norton, Members of the Court Leet, Councillors, Members of the Housman Society and citizens of Bromsgrove.
Last year this ceremony was quite a landmark as we commemorated the thirtieth anniversary of the unveiling of the statue by the Duke of Westminster and although in today’s ceremony we cannot rival the importance of that occasion, for me personally today is quite a landmark as it is the thirtieth time that I have presided over the occasion, but it will also be the last, as at our recent Annual General Meeting I felt the time had come for me to hand over the reins to another. Sadly we have been unable to find the right replacement yet but I am pleased to say that Max Hunt, our General Secretary and elder son of the Society’s joint founder, is currently holding the reins.
Max is a man of many parts and some of you will have heard his outstanding Bromsgrove Society lecture last week on Herbert Austin. As we heard details of Herbert Austin’s extraordinary career I found myself surprised that as a Bromsgrove resident for the best part of his life he is not highlighted more often as one of our most famous citizens. Max expressed his surprise that there is not even a blue plaque on his house at Lickey Grange – and that set me wondering what other Bromsgrovians there are that should be recognised either by some ceremony like this or through a permanent memorial.
Members of the Bromsgrove Guild spring to mind – William Gilbert its founder, Celestino Pancheri and his son Robert, who created such memorable work throughout the country. And going back to 1827 there was Benjamin Maund with his seminal monthly publication ‘Botanic Garden’. We could add men of the theatre who have been educated in Bromsgrove like Ian Carmichael, Trevor Eve and Rufus Norris. And then there is that important fellow Digby Jones and go on to ruby internationals etc etc….
I don’t think we can put Dennis Norton into Bromsgrove Hall of Fame just yet but his contribution to the town in the form of his Norton Collection is an outstanding one and we are delighted to have him here today as our Guest of the Day. Those of you who were here last year will remember that this statue was in a rather unfinished state after its recent refurbishment as part of the regeneration of the High Street. About a week or so after that occasion Dennis Norton knocked on my front door and asked if we would like him to do some work to finish off the statue. Of course I said I’d be delighted and within ten days Dennis had fitted metal rods to hide the cracks at the corners, found finials to go on top and waterproofed the gaps between the granite slabs and the concrete plinth – altogether a most inventive and professional piece of work. Dennis we thank you most sincerely.
As you will all know Dennis is working flat out at the Museum in order to re-open it this summer but I am delighted he has found time to be with us today, so now I hand over to him to say a few words and take us into the world of A.E. Housman, whose poetry still finds such resonance with many of us today.