20 March 2014

Poetry Thursday - London, "grey to pearl and pearl to gold"

the view of "Eldorado" from high up on Highgate Hill (via)

As I came down the Highgate Hill,
The Highgate Hill, the Highgate Hill,
As I came down the Highgate Hill
I met the sun’s bravado,
And saw below me, fold on fold,
Grey to pearl and pearl to gold,
This London like a land of old,
The land of Eldorado.
Henry Howarth Bashford, ‘Romances’ (via)

Highgate Hill is within walking distance of my own eyrie, so these lines really resonate with me. But who was Henry Howarth Bashford? He is now most remembered as "Augustus Carp", but was a physian in his other life - the non-writerly life, that is; he was King George VI's doctor, and one of the pioneers of industrial medicine, mining the records held by the Post Office Medical Service, for which he worked until 1943. 
His dates are 1880-1961, and we learn from his obituary that he was the grandson of a naval officer wounded at Trafalgar, and there were at least two bishops in his mother's side of the family. When he was 7 years old, one of his teachers said he lacked ambition (what did he know? things seem to have turned out very different for Henry). At the age of 15 he went to the snow-covered prairies of Canada to work as a farm labourer, and back in London qualified as a doctor in 1904. He "always" took three months holiday, cycling all over England and Scotland, and sometimes working as a farmhand again.
Sir Henry was knighted in 1938. He had been chief medical officer to the Post Office (1933-43), the Treasury medical advisor 1943-4,5 and was the honorary physician to King George VI, 1941-44. He retired to Easton Royal, Wiltshire, where there is a blue plaque to him.

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