AND NOW WE WILL TRY WORCESTER AND THE CHURCH
RECKLESSNESS STILL PREVAILS
The Captain and Mrs Gordon disapproved so strongly of the way their son was behaving at home that they sent him to Worcester to see what his uncle, Captain R.C.H Gordon, could do with him.
Uncle Robert had a big old house and garden, Greenhills, on the London road, and his six lively children saw to it that their home was never dull. The environment was different from the tense quietness of Priory street, and Lindsay enjoyed and expanded in the genial atmosphere. He had grown into a handsome, high-spirited young man, to whom everybody was attracted. His restless energy found full scope in the houseful of youngsters, all of whom liked their clever cousin who could always be relied on to join in any madcap game or tell wonderful tales of adventure or compose amusing rhymes.
With one of his young cousins Lindsay attended the Royal Grammar School to be tutored by the head master, Canon Temple. His father had a notion that he might do well in the Church, for he had a good brain, although he was not studious, Canon Temple had thought very well of him, too, and Lindsay liked the Canon, and picked up from him a great love of the classics. But studies never occupied him for long.
AN EXTRACT AND LINK from ‘A History of Worcester Royal Grammar School’ by F.V. Follett which was published by Ebenezer Baylis in Worcester in 1951. Mr. Follett was a teacher at the school from 1920 to 1950. He taught English and was Second Master from 1942 until 1950.
(With thanks to David Packman)
Besides the family, Lindsay found plenty of congenial friends in Worcester town, notably Charlie Walker, who was his own age and disposition, though he was less highly strung than Lindsay and did not take things to heart so much, besides-which he had the advantage of humble and agreeable parents. With him Gordon scoured the countryside for amusement. The pair attended village fairs and rustic balls, danced and flirted with the rosy-cheeked, country girls, played in amateur theatricals, and went heroic walks-they thought nothing of covering the 26 miles between Cheltenham and Worcester on foot.
His uncle let the lad go his own way, and for a while all went well, then his turbulent spirit again asserted itself and landed him in a series of scrapes that were too much for his uncle’s sense of dignity.
THE FARMER’S DAUGHTER
Lindsay and Charlie in their hunting excursions had made the acquaintance of one, Joshua Bridges, son of a well-to-do farmer at Broughton Hackett, five miles from Worcester. Joshua had two pretty sisters, and as the year advanced, it was noticeable that Charlie’s and Lindsay’s horses were more and more frequently to be seen heading for the Bridges place. Sally, the younger sister, was a pretty little flirt of 15 with chestnut curls and a saucy answer for all comers. Jane, at 18, was a serious young thing, with large, dark eyes and a taste for music and poetry. She was rather charmed by her brother’s dashing friends, and set herself half seriously to reform the young scapegrace Lindsay, who was delighted to find so sympathetic and delightful a companion. He poured into her ready ear the sad tale of his life, what a misfit he was at home and how his parents misjudged him.
LINK TO THE MANOR, BROUGHTON HACKETT, showing the steps to the loft door of the barn where Lindsay Gordon and Charlie Walker slept on one of their visits which took place on the eve of Valentine’s day, 1853.
They were troubled with rats.
She liked to hear him recite poetry, and, as they discussed together their favourite authors, she fell a little under the spell of her handsome aristocratic young cavalier. But her sturdy common sense told her that their lots were cast in different spheres, and they were not meant for each other, Lindsay, in his impetuous way, was feeling a more and more romantic regard for the pretty ingenuous farmer’s daughter.
Lindsay always found it difficult to get a decent horse to ride to hounds, or racing, or even for a quiet canter with a friend. He could not hope to buy one, funds were much too low for that; and the captain, though he loved horses himself almost as dearly as Lindsay did, would not hear of such an expensive luxury as horse-hiring or horse-keeping. Friends were strangely loth to lend him their steeds- Lindsay had acquired a reputation for recklessness and hard riding, and nobody would trust him with a mount that they valued at all. He was lucky to get sometimes a rough young horse to educate by a run to hounds, or a big steeplechaser to “qualify’ for a hunt club race. So, with these miscellaneous steeds, he came by many falls, and his reputation as a wild rider grew unfairly.
BACK HOME TO CHELTENHAM
DECISIONS MADE A WILD RIDER
In the last few years Gordon had developed a passion for riding and jumping: he was at his happiest following hounds across the misty Cotswold Hills or trying the fences at Prestbury. Although he never managed to appear on a first rate horse, he had been in several good steeplechases- flat races he scorned- and had even won a small one, at Birdlip, over stone walls. The taste of victory had been very sweet. Then he and Charley heard about a really good thing.
Old Tom Olliver was training down at Prestbury, a big black steeplechaser, whose owner was anxious to sell her. She could be got cheaply, and would have a good chance at the coming Worcester races. After deep thought he and Charley agreed to buy this animal on the instalment plan. Their weekly payments were met regularly, though it was a great strain on their meagre -joint- resources. Of course the family was not informed. What happy hours they spent at Prestbury, gloating over the fine black mare, whose name they changed from plain Louisa to romantic Lallah Rookh! All their friends knew about it, and they were backing her for the race. And at the last moment the wretched owner, Mr. Hooper, became apprehensive. He had visions of reckless riding and a broken-necked horse on his hands, and the only security for the money, two impecunious youths who were still minors: he would not accept their fervent assurances that whatever happened the rest of the purchase money would be his in due time. He said that the horse was not to be ridden unless the balance was paid before the race. They tried all they knew to raise the money, but it could not be done; and so the night before the race Lallah Rookh was locked up in the stable of the Plough Inn at Worcester.
Here was a sorry plight! They were certain their mare could win the race. Lindsay was yearning to ride a decent animal for once; he had a new blue silk jacket in honour of the occasion; moreover, they had paid up their instalments regularly, and felt morally entitled to her. Also, many friends had backed her on their recommendations. And now she was to be scratched because of an unreasonable whim of her miserable owner’s! It was too bad, Charley’s and Lindsay’s blood fairly boiled at the prospect.
A RACING ESCAPADE
They could not let the race go by without their mare having a gallop for it. The night before the great day came they burst open the stable door, Lindsay knocked down the ostler and made up with the mare. Next day he faced the starter with the others. And rose Lallah Rookh to victory in the City of Worcester Steeplechase!
It was a great moment, but pride went before a fall. A Sherriff’s officer appeared at once with a warrant for his arrest- for stealing the horse-, the rescued mare was led ignominiously away, and the crestfallen rider managed to slip out among the crowd. The warrant was not put into action, but it took some trouble to quieten down the affair.
His uncle was a very law-abiding citizen, indeed he was a Magistrate of the City of Worcester; he was angry, and washed his hands of his unruly nephew.
Tom Oliver rallied to their defence, and his father (who came over to see what it was all about) had to part with £30. He had been most annoyed with the young rascals, but he said that if he had known at the time he might have helped them…… Lindsay thought that he saw a glint of amusement in his father’s eye as he listened to the sad tale.
The Captain determined that this should be the end of his son’s foolishness. He saw him develop into a happy-go-lucky follower of horses and hounds, and idler, or worse, content to spend his days riding and racing and larking with his feckless friends. Also, he had heard rumours about the affair at Broughton Hackett.
He could not bear the see the boy’s good qualities go to waste in this way. For it was evident that, in spite of his wildness, young Gordon had a good head, a keen, quick brain, and more than his share of the family charm and dash and courage.
He could turn a verse neatly, and knew his own faults-“what were the verses he had scribbled about himself?”
“I’ve something of the bulldog in my breed,
The spaniel is developed somewhat less;
While life is in me I can fight and bleed,
But never the chastising hand caress.
You say the stroke was well-intended, “True.”
You mention “It was meant to do me good.”
“That may be.” “You deserve it”. “Granted too.”
“Then take it kindly.” “No-I never could.”
SENT TO AUSTRALIA
Captain Gordon decided that the best thing was for his son to spend a few years abroad working off his high spirits, since it was clear that at home he would come to no good. It must have been a hard decision for the Captain to come to- he was now a man of nearly 60, and his home was a singularly lonely one. His wife and daughter, Inez, spent much of their time abroad, and Inez seemed to be drifting into an engagement with a young Italian whom the father did not care for. His brother’s three sons were doing well in the Army, The Navy, and the West Indian Service. Lindsay alone of his generation was unsatisfactory.
This was in 1852, with Queen Victoria seated firmly on the throne and the Victorian ideals spreading slowly but surely across the land. Victorian parents knew just exactly what to do with unsatisfactory sons.
They must emigrate-in the free life of the colonies they would either sink or swim- either come back in a few years rich and rehabilitated or be heard of no more.
So the Captain decided that Lindsay should emigrate. He remembered his own young days in India and communicated with India House; but nothing was available for a long time. For his own part Lindsay thought seriously about enlisting. Uncle Robert had once spent some years in New South Wales, and recommended that colony. Then they had heard about an appointment in the mounted police in South Australia-good pay, a horse, quarters and three suits of regimentals yearly. It seemed just the thing for an ardent horseman, and his father thought that the boy had few ties to break at home. “I never saw anyone so independent of everybody as you are, Lindsay,” He said. “You won’t care a bit about leaving everyone behind you, and precious few will care about your leaving, either.”
The lad hardly knew what to say. He knew that he had disappointed and disgraced his father over the Lallah Rookh episode, but his attachment for Jane Bridges had grown into a boyish passion, and he could not bear the thought of parting from her. He had never yet spoken a word to her of his romantic feelings, and now he resolved to put it to the test once for all.
On a bright May morning when the lilacs were in full flower and the chestnuts held up their white flames among the abounding greenness of Cheltenham, young Lindsay Gordon turned his horse’s head for the last time towards Broughton Hackett.
He arrived at the farmhouse just as Jane was going out driving with her father. She came bonneted and cloaked into the parlour and was surprised to see the young man standing there so speechless and tense. They had all been such good friends together and never had he spoken of love to her. He had a wild and forlorn look, and without a greeting said, “I have come to say goodbye.” The demure little farmer’s daughter had heard all about Lallah Rookh and the consequences thereof, and she replied primly that they were all very sorry to hear he was going away.
Lindsay looked up at last at the girl he loved and burst out: “If you will say one word I won’t go.”
Still Jenny would not understand. “What word should I say?”
“Stay! Ask me to Stay! I never meant to tell you how much I love you, but now I can’t help it- I’ll work like a Trojan for you, do whatever my father wants- only ask me to stay!”
Jenny answered sedately: “I can’t ask you to stay after all the trouble you’ve been to your poor father”- and then added awkwardly. To make it seem less blunt- “And anyway I won’t deceive you, I love someone else. Keep my secret, as I will yours.”
Lindsay was overwhelmed; he had never seriously thought that his suit would be refused. His gallant bearing and good looks had brought him easy popularity with all the girls he had met.
He looked again in Jane Bridges and saw that she meant what she said. So his love was hopeless. Choking back his grief and disappointment, he said;
“Now I know that you won’t care for me. I may as well be in Australia as anywhere else. So goodbye.”
Jenny extended her hand in farewell and he raided it to his lips- the only kiss that passed between the two. Then Lindsay strode off blindly down the road towards Cheltenham and Jenny slowly and thoughtfully joined her father in the gig. Presently as they drove along she told him what had happened. The old farmer listened in silence, and at the end asked only “Are you quite sure?” She nodded.
Lindsay marched home determined to make the best of his voyage to Australia- since it was now clear that go he must.
Parents, even the best of them, did not understand much; they had cavilled (raised over-the –top objection) at the expense of a horse, and they scorned the Bridges because they were not “county.” Certainly they did not belong to the snobbish little set of dowagers and college people and-Anglo-Indians, but came of honest yeomen stock just as ancient as the Gordons, and rather better off… and Jane Bridges had turned him down! His mother would be more than pleased it was all over, but she would be upset that it had happened that way. His father, too, would not like it-only the other day there had been a row on the subject. Lindsay recalled it with a sigh. Coming down late one morning, he refused the breakfast eggs. “You don’t seem in a mood for breakfast this morning,” his father had remarked. “Not much, but you ought to have been me a week ago.” “Was that when you stopped a week in the country?” Lindsay stared and answered yes. “You’d got a good looking lady to make tea for you perhaps,” the Captain observed in a sarcastic way he had. Surprised, Lindsay admitted that this was right or thereabouts. “I suppose that was the farmer’s daughter your uncle says you’ve been hanging after.” Growing rather warm, partly with surprise and partly with annoyance, Lindsay burst out: “I don’t know what gammon (falsehood) my uncle may have swallowed, at all events she’s better than your precious son-in-law, that is to be. You’ve studied my sister’s interests nicely by letting her have her way. But never you fear, Governor, you may make your mind at rest on that score, for a damned good reason, why, even suppose I wanted her, she wouldn’t have me, though I am the Honourable Captain Gordon’s son! You ought to be obliged to her, if I’m not!’ And he stalked out of the room. It had put his father in a rage, and then there had been more rows about bills that had come in…..a very stormy time, those last few weeks in Cheltenham. His mother so disapproving, calling him a disgrace to the family, and praying for him, and at him all the time; could she be quite right in the mind with all these prayers? And then the whole family scandalised by his riding in steeplechases-goodness knows why; surely it was a good sport, and he never rode for money; on the contrary, he usually had to pay for the privilege of a mount. He never betted either, first because he did not care for betting, and anyway he never had any spare cash. The unfortunate affair of Lallah Rookh had come as the last straw.
Good days those had been out on the Cotswold Hills-though all too few, as he could not afford a subscription to the pack nor a horse regularly- neither could Charley- but the days lingered in his memory with unfading radiance. Years later it was still clear in his mind.
“I remember the lowering wintry morn,
And the mist on the Cotswold Hills,
Where I once heard the blast of the huntsman’s horn
Not far from the Seven Rills.
Lindsay knew that he must accept the offer in the South Australian Mounted Police. His father had worked hard amongst influential friends, and had excellent letters of introduction to the Governor of the Colony, Sir Henry Fox Young, and to General Campbell of the militia; he promised a first rate outfit and money lodged in the Adelaide bank against his arrival; he was very generous; whatever Lindsay wanted before he went he should have. Lindsay gave in and asked meekly if his passage was taken- he was ready to go, it was no good shivering on the brink when one plunge would end it all. As his father explained the details to him the lad drew a long breath, suffering for a moment the chocking sensation of sorrow that a man feels when he knows all the hopes he has cherished are scattered and blighted for ever; as if the air that he breathed in were liquid lead; but he swallowed it somehow, whistle, and lit a pipe. He could not rebel against the parent edict; he knew well that he had disappointed his father, and he saw no way of beginning a career for himself in England. So he gave his blue racing jacket to his little cousins to make pincushions of, and wrote half seriously to Charley Walker:-
What if friends desert in trouble, Fortune can recall them yet-
Faithful in champagne and sunshine, false in clouds and heavy wet;
Who would trust in mankind’s daughter, since by Eve our fall was planned-
Woman’s love is writ on water, woman’s faith is traced on sand.
Now farewell, but let me warn you, ere I’ve said my last adieu,
You may laugh at all things earthly, while your pluck is stout and true;
Put no faith in aught you meet with, friends or lovers new or old;
Never trust the gamest racehorse that was ever reared or foaled.
If you find your lady fickle, take it cool and never heed;
If you get a bill delivered, roll it up and light your weed;
If a foe insults your honour, hit out straight and whop him well;
If your thickest friend turns rusty, tell him he can go to h-l.
Fame is folly, honour madness, love delusion, friendship sham;
Pleasure paves the way for sadness, none of these are worth a d-n.
But a stout heart proof ‘gainst fate is, when there can be nothing more done.
This advice is given gratis, by yours truly, Lindsay Gordon.
On August 7, 1853, the barque Julia sailed from Gravesend. She was one of Robert Carter and Co’s packet line, 510 tons, among the smaller members of the fleet, but fast and reliable. She carried a large cargo consigned to various merchants of Adelaide:
1,277 bars of iron and 110 kegs of nails for Harrold Bros.
410 tons of coal on order, 80 hogsheads for Elder and Co.,
780 deals for Stilling’s, thousands of bales and casks and packages for the colonial stores.
She also carried passengers, eight or nine in the steerage, and a small group in the saloon; a young married couple a middle-aged man whom the others called “Doctor,” and three young fellows.
It was on this ship that Adam Lindsay Gordon sailed for Australia. There had been misunderstandings at home, as usual, and his mother and sister were abroad and let him go without a word of farewell. Only his Captain came to see him off. Father and son stood on the gangway with clasped hands, silent, too moved for words. (Gordon’s father had been on board The Julia in the hours before the sailing and delivered a letter to Charley Walker handed to him by his son.)