A ROADSTER

A man walked slowly through the village, cap in hand singing “Abide with me,” turning sideways, first to the left, then to the right, with a “Thank you man” he would step across the road to collect a few pence. Sometimes a man and woman he would sing and the woman would knock all the doors, both sides of the street. The man watching if no-one came to the door. They moved along fast, but if a few neighbours were talking together then the man would with feeble voice “Rock of ages” with special hesitancy, a little cough.

I can remember well the hymns always on Mondays, after Sunday and the line, “Nothing but to thee I cling.” One man sung that a dozen times going through the village. Boy like we wandered up and down the village street, to see who gave and who didn’t. Sometimes they had a squeeze box (small accordion) or whistle. The last of these wanderers was a Welsh miner, who through ill health, was with a tin whistle playing “Swanee River” and collecting alms, in our village in the late 1930’s. I talked to him, as he paused by our shop, to drink a cup of tea, mother sent me with telling him how much I enjoyed his rendering of “Swanee.” “Yes, I could do much better with a better instrument” he said in a quick sort of singing voice. Of the Welsh “you see I used to play in our band, oh – yes man. I was in the choir for nigh on 30 years, till the dust got me.” “I can tell you’re a Welshman” I said as he gave the cup back.

Off he strode with a thank you bo-yo. Then with a whistle he gave me “Men of Harlech.” I sang and whistled that for days after.