The older I get, the more I marvel at how everything in life connects with everything else - and despair for the blindness of those who cannot see it.

Take last week, for instance, when we were advised not to shake hands, as a precaution against the coronavirus.This invaluable advice was being dispensed at the same time that the Chief Medical Officer was telling us about washing our hands - something I learned at my mother’s knee. I trust most people’s hygiene skills are just as old, so I will take the risk of shaking the hand of anybody who is willing to risk shaking mine.

In the meantime I received a kind invitation to attend the unveiling of a plaque and the opening of an exhibition (which was due to happen yesterday), paying tribute to a towering giant from Swindon’s history.

I said yes immediately because that man is James ‘Raggy’ Powell, and if I had a time machine that could transport me to a meeting with anyone in history, he would be one of the very first I would seek out so I could shake his hand.

If you don’t know his story: he was nicknamed Raggy because he was a rag-and-bone man. However, he was good enough at it to become rich and obtain various artworks, which he was only too happy to share with the people of Swindon.

He gave a large statue of Charlotte Corday, for instance, which still stands in the foyer of the Town Hall, and many other objects that eventually formed the basis of Swindon Museum. No wonder he was made a Freeman of the Borough.

During his lifetime this extraordinary man even gave a plot of land on which Eastcott Community Centre now stands - which is where you will find the new plaque, posthumously thanking him for his immense generosity.

Then something spooky happened to me, last week. I was searching for something completely different in the Adver’s archive of back issues when - of all the things - I happened across coverage of Raggy’s death in 1930.

I doubt any more glowing and heartfelt tributes have ever been published in this paper’s 166-year history than those written when Raggy Powell died.

Reuben George (another giant of Swindon’s history) said of him: ‘You never allowed your life to be submerged by conventionality, or blighted by a false respectability. You never played to the stars.’ The more you hear about some people, the better they get.

And the man who led the service at his funeral said he was ‘the guide, philosopher and friend of all. His mission in life was to leave the world a little sweeter for his passage through it. In his public life… he had demonstrated to us the value of a devoted service based on honesty, courage and efficiency. His generosity and kindly actions can never be measured...

‘Children he loved with an unsurpassed devotion, realising that if you gave the child a good start in life, it was the most effective way of elevating the race.’

And just when you thought your admiration for Raggy was already sky-high, at his funeral it was recalled how he put his philosophy into his own words: “If I am hungry and have a crust, I go out and find another who is hungry also. I share that crust.”

Who would not shake the hand of a man like that?

There is a tiny risk of infection, but imagine how much you have to gain if even just a little of someone’s magic should rub off on you.