Old Kellly

Here’s another piece from “Old Oak”:

“A remarkable man in his day and generation was Old Kelly. He was a champion backswardsman and a great amateur pugilist; he caught foxes alive and grew lovely carnations; he was often the lord of the Whitsun Ale, and he was a man of considerable substance.

The old and first Silson church, which, according to Simon the sexton was built at the tie of “Nooah’s flood”, had in past centuries often seen royalty worshipping within its walls, for the Plantagenet kings, especially John of unloved memory, often hunted item forest, and there was in those days a royal mansion Silson where they were wont to reside on those occasions.

This distinction, however, did not preserve it fro decay: i the middle of the 18th century it commenced to fall, and the Honourable Henry Beauclerk, Rector of Green’s Norton to which Whittlebury and Silverstone were attached, was sadly put to it to know here to get eh money to build another. It was Old Kelly who came to the rescue. He had long held the secret act  a piece of church property was in alien hands, and at such time as he thought fit offers to disclose it to the rector – at a price. They loved each other little, those two. The one was a fox-hunter, the one a fox-catcher. The fox question weighed as much with the record as the need of a new church, and Kelly on his part, ran quite a lucrative trade in “the varmint”, keeping his captures alive i a pit till he could sell them at a good price thunks indifferent parts of the county where foxes were few. In the end, however, all was satisfactorily arranged: Kelly and his friend Harry Collinson, were each to have £20 a year … to leave the foxes alone; Kelly was to be builder of the new church and to have the firs choice of a pew when it was finished, with a few more privileges; the rector was to have the secret.

The right to the land was established and the new church built; the pulpit, complete with sounding board, reading desk, and clerk’s cabin, was set in its midst (so that – evil-minded folk suggested – the record high see who turned into the White Horse during service hours) and all that was now needed was its consecration. I due time the bishop came, and Kelly, a fine carnation in his button hole, was seen by a crowded congregation to march proudly to a pew situated just behind the pulpit and higher than anyone else’s, where, as he said, the rector could see his master every tie he entered the church. After the ceremony  – most horrible to relate – a party of morris-dancers went up onto the roof and dedicated it to the Devil!

Kelly got queerer and queerer as the years passed, and was believed by many to be in close league with Satan; indeed, he held some in a thraldom of terror till he died, and even after that. One lady ha defended him, and threatened to come back from the grave and pounce on her from behind, if ever she was found in her garden after sunset. Knowing, as she said, that he would certainly carry out his threat if “allowed”, eh never dared enter the garden again at night as long sash lived.

In his will Kelly left half a crown to his nephew, “to cry for me at the funeral”. “NO one else will cry for me,” he wrote, “and Ned Linnell will cry for any one of half a crown!” He evidently had a poor opinion of his nephew. He also left a sum of money to provide forces grave being covered “for evermore” with stout oak planks studded with pointed spikes; “I’ve never been trodden on when alive,” he added, “and I prefer not to be trodden o when I’m dead”.His wishes were carried out on his death, and y father, as a young man, could remember the planks, so I have heard him say, but his request or bequest for their eternal maintenance went unheeded. He wrote his own epitaph; n my las visit to the churchyard I found the letters undecipherable, but, as a boy, I often read these lines engraved on his tombstone:

“Weep not for me, for that were vain;

Yet for yourself and then refrain.” 


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