Tackling the brambles in St Giles Churchyard with The Stoke Poges Society brought back happy memories for me – not of brambles, but of visits to the Monument with my father. He was born and raised in the area and attended Thomas Gray School, in Slough, where – perhaps unsurprisingly – all pupils in his day were required to memorise the Elegy and to recite it when called upon. It may not have been a particularly happy task for some of the children, but my father loved it. He never forgot the Elegy and often recited sections of the poem whenever it seemed appropriate, and sometimes when it did not!
He said school cross-country runs frequently took him past St Giles Church, and he would try to imagine the landscape as it was in Gray’s time. Learning the Elegy sparked in him a love of poetry in general, which he passed on to me. When I was old enough to appreciate the Elegy for myself, my father would take me to St Giles to show me the monument and we would stroll through the fields round about while he recited the poem. Sadly, my father passed away when I was relatively young but I feel sure he would be pleased to know of the work being done to restore the grounds, and of the small part I played in it.
Richard Emerson – May 2016