A Report by Mark Chutter

The Thomas Hardy Birthday Weekend 2022

A Report by Mark Chutter

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On Saturday the 4th of June the weekend started with a most agreeable walk based on the history of Durnovaria and Casterbridge (Dorchester) and Mai-Dun (Maiden Castle). The walk was facilitated by Dr Tony Fincham and Mark Chutter. Starting at Hardy’s statue members then toured towards the ancient hillfort at Poundbury and then onwards to Maiden Castle (Hardy’s ‘Mai-Dun’) and finally back to the Neolithic henge and Roman Amphitheatre Maumbury Rings (‘The Ring’).

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This was followed by a short walk to the Union Workhouse in Damer’s Road featured through the eyes of the character of Fanny Robin in Far from the Madding Crowd and through the voices used in ‘The Curate’s Kindness - A Workhouse Irony’. En-route an eclectic range of Hardy readings were recited such as the ballad ‘The Mock Wife’, and extracts from The Mayor of Casterbridge including the reference to eighteen year old Mary Channing who was executed - half-strangled and then burnt at the stake at Maumbury Rings in 1706  for supposedly poisoning her husband. This was a well attended walk and the proposed housing development (to the north of Dorchester) was discussed throughout when touring around Hardy’s Casterbridge, identifying the land under threat. Please see the STAND website for an update on this: https://stand-dorchester.net
 

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In the afternoon at 3pm a lecture on Hardy and Patriotism was delivered by Fred Reid, Honorary Professor of History at the University of Warwick. This was an engaging contextual reading of Hardy including a look at the writer’s political views and his stance on war, for example in poems such as ‘Drummer Hodge’ and in ‘At the War Office, London’. This was followed by the laying of the wreath at the statue by the Mayor Janet Hewitt and Professor Reid. The procession then ventured down the high street to the statue of William Barnes - who was a great mentor to Hardy - where Jane Ashdown, chair of the WBS, read several poems and made links between the two poets.

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On the morning of Sunday the 5th of June it was the Hardy service at Stinsford (Mellstock) given by THS Chair the Reverend Canon Richard Franklin. The sermon was most illuminating on Hardy and religion. At the end of the service a wreath was laid at the grave followed by tea and cake . A wonderful weekend was had by all to celebrate the birth of our local and international genius. Thank you for attending and we look forward to welcoming you at the international conference in July!
 
Mark Damon Chutter
Academic Director

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