Unveiling the new Hardy Memorial Stone at Westminster Abbey!
Eminent Hardy biographer Professor Claire Tomalin officially dedicated the new stone by invitation of the Thomas Hardy Society.
The London Walk, led by THS Chairman Dr Tony Fincham and Professor Mark Ford, was expertly planned and timed to finish at Westminster Abbey just after 3pm, as the last tourists were being politely exited and the way made clear for the Thomas Hardy Society. We entered via the north gate and after a short wait were guided to Poets' Corner where the Venerable David Stanton, Canon in Residence, welcomed us: "We are gathered here to remember Thomas Hardy, to give thanks for his great literary achievements, and to lay a wreath of Stinsford yew on the grave containing his ashes." Canon Stanton then invited the readers forward. Our new Academic Director, Dr Faysal Mikdadi, read "I Look Into My Glass", Helen Lange "On a Fine Morning", Professor Mark Ford "A Church Romance", and our Chair, Dr Tony Fincham, "At Castle Boterel". The piece-de-resistance was Anthony Turner's moving recital of "I Am The One".
Professor Claire Tomalin, whose important biography of Hardy The Time-Torn Man was published in 2006, and who has edited collections of Hardy's poetry, then gave a short address in which she shared some of the aspects of Hardy's character she found most moving, including his habit of repairing his old clothes with stitches of string and his devoted bowing to the new moon each time it appeared. She noted the high esteem in which Hardy is held by poets, and recalled Seamus Heaney, on his way to give a lecture on T S Eliot, confiding: "I wish I was going to talk about Hardy instead!" Claire then made the formal request of the Dean and Chapter of the Abbey to receive into their safe custody the memorial to Thomas Hardy. We gathered round the new stone, funded by a donation from longstanding Hardy Society members David and Nancy Jones of Chapel Town, North Carolina and a legacy from Heather Shean, the Society's former Minutes Secretary, while Claire laid the wreath. The Canon then led us in prayers and pronounced a final blessing.
There was just enough time for photo opportunities with the Canon, Claire Tomalin, and Fiona, daughter of Heather Shean, before the Society's visit drew to a close.
(Andrew Hewitt - THS Student Representative)