THE life of poet Alfred Williams will be celebrated 100 years on with an event dedicated to the working class hero. An illustrated talk and readings of his work will mark the centenary of the publication of his third volume of verse, Nature And Other Poems. The talk, part of the first Swindon Festival of Poetry, will take place at a ‘poetry space’ set aside at Swindon Central Library.
Williams was born one of eight children in South Marston . His mother abandoned the family soon afterwards. He began part-time work on a local farm aged just eight before joining his elder brother at the GWR works in 1892. Williams later published A Wiltshire Village, an account of life in South Marston and the following year Cor Cordium, his fourth book of poetry.
His writing career was interrupted by the outbreak of the First World War.
Williams became a gunner in the Royal Field Artillery and served in Ireland, Scotland and India, a posting which would have a profound influence on his poetry.
After 22 years’ employment in the Works, he wrote an account of life at the factory. When it was eventually published in 1915, Life in a Railway Works caused a storm.
The reviewer in the GWR Magazine dated January 1916 tore into it, writing of Williams’s bitter spirit against the management and his attacks on his fellow workmen.
The book sold badly locally, with only about 12 copies bought in Swindon during its first year.
But Williams was also known for his verse, gaining the nickname the ‘Hammerman Poet’.
His key themes were nature, love and the local landscape.
Williams’ ties to South Marston are still evident, with one of his old homes in South Marston, Rose Cottage in Vicarage Lane, currently up for sale for £475,000.
The Alfred Williams Heritage Society has embarked upon an ambitious programme to raise the profile of the home-grown literary giant.
- The society and the Friends of Alfred Williams will host the free event, featuring Kaye Franklin MBE, Graeme Franklin and Graham Carter. It takes place at 11am on October 6. For more information, please call 01793 466454.