Remembering Reg, an Old Contemptible

Writer's notebook

reg

Today is Armistice Day, and I want to pay tribute to Reg Hill, one of the last of the Old Contemptibles.

He was awarded the Croix de Guerre with star for conspicuous gallantry and I was sent to interview him when I worked on a weekly newspaper. Being a junior reporter and only 19 I didn’t really know much about anything, and that day when I arrived on his doorstep in November 1978 was no exception. My knowledge of the Great War was fairly sketchy and I had just pushed the doorbell when I realised I had nothing to write on and nothing to write with.

croix de guerre

But by then it was too late. Reg had already opened his front door. He was 96 and he looked small and vulnerable. I couldn’t help thinking that he actually looked like a tortoise that had lost its shell. But in two ticks he…

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A New Sort of Holyday for Husbands, or a warning to troublesome wives, 1733

The History of Love

Here is a particularly heartwarming (*cough*) report of one man’s enthusiastic embrace of widowhood in London in 1733. Yes folks, the ‘new holyday for husbands’ is to be enjoyed when your troublesome wife drops dead. Charming. (Although I do appreciate the tactful description of said wife. Next time anyone asks me about a break-up I am going to respond: ‘Ah, that unfit Yoke-fellow? He was endowed with some qualities that were disagreeable to me.’)

holyday

– From the Derby Mercury, Thursday 22 March 1733

‘Some Days ago a Watch-maker on Holbourn-Hill, gave an Entertainment to a great Number of Neighbours at the Globe-Alehouse, on the said Hill, upon the following merry Occasion, viz. He happened to have a Wife endowed with some Qualities, that were disagreeable to him; (which is many a poor Man’s Case) some time before this, his Wife happened to be taken ill, and he, upon talking of…

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