“MAYBE the rail slowly rusts, and hammer

Stops tapping iron laid by this railway town.

But now there’s Thamesdown to link to Swindon’s crown.

So pass honourably glories that clamour

For more time, more space and more everything;

Instead raise banner and hoist pennant high

Over sheds and turntables that still sing

Far and wide wherever Swindon’s engines fly.”

So began a sonnet dedicated to the last mayor of the old Swindon Borough, Alderman Gladys Knapp MBE, which was replaced by Thamesdown in local government reorganisation 45 years ago.

The poet was named as John Fairfax, about whom we can find no mention in our files.

And the sonnet? It appeared in a booklet, called A Commemorative Essay, written by Norman G Liddiard, who died, as did the old borough, in 1974.

Mr Liddiard was 61; the borough was as old as the century.

A former press officer and social development officer with the council and later a technical secretary with Garrard Engineering, Mr Liddiard was also a founder member of Swindon Film Club and Swindon Philosophical Society, and a prolific writer about the history and culture of Swindon.

The contents of the commemorative booklet include straightforward history, anecdotes and letters between the author and a Swindonian friend who emigrated to Canada.

One section, headed Encounter with a Ghost, has a local spirit share his memories: “I rode on one of the first trams. I was almost afraid to go on at the time.

“It seemed so strange, horseless carriages. They rocked and rattled, and sparked and sputtered.”

In another section, historical facts about the town are interspersed with childhood memories: “The boy climbed from the towpath under the Whale Bridge to hang by his hands from the jutting angle of iron which formed the base of the bridge.

“Then, hand over hand, he swung out over the water. His arms ached, but he kept on until he reached the far side.

“The sun was setting directly ahead of him, and everything ahead of him - the Queenstown Club, the Queenstown school, Cetus buildings - were all bathed in a golden glow.

“The world was wonderful.”