The Choirboy

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St Mary's

Britain declared War on Germany on 4th August 1914 and just over ten weeks later, the first parish casualty was the beautifully-named Victor Le Strange Wayre. Reverend John Robinson wrote him a short obituary in the St Mary’s Church parish magazine, but such were the subsequent losses over the next four years that he was unable to do this for any of the other Summerstown 182. Victor was 18 and in the Army Pay Corps and he never even made it out of the country. He very likely either got sick or was injured in a training accident, but he died in hospital in Warwick on 22nd October 1914. He is one of 26 First World War casualties who rest in Warwick Cemetery. His widowed mother Laura lived at 2 Freshford Street. In the obituary, the vicar fondly remembers him, ‘For many years a member of our Choir, as leading boy and lately an alto, whose beautiful voice was so greatly appreciated by the congregation. He was a favourite with all who knew him’.

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choirboys

Victor would certainly have known and probably grown up with a lot of the people in the above photograph from 1924. Among them are four brothers of Charles Jeffries from Thurso Street, another of the Summerstown182. Exploring the less well-visited parts of St Mary’s Church, I’ve been fascinated to study the wooden casing enclosing the organ mechanism in the church tower. Initials have been scratched on there over the years, I imagine by restless choirboys. Many of them were carved over one hundred years ago and although I’ve looked hard, I can’t find Victor or any other names I recognise. There are creaking cupboards up there containing great dusty wads of sheet music and there can be no doubt that he would have sung from some of those. Sadly the choirboys have all gone but their legacy lives on in ‘Betty Holloway’s wardrobe’ where apparently they used to hang their surplices.

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It was round Easter 2015 when we dropped into Warwick Cemetery on the way home from Wales to visit him. His grave is curiously quite isolated, in a quiet section of the cemetery  with a nice backdrop of conifers keeping an eye on him. The personal inscription at the foot of the headstone simply reads ‘Rock of Ages’. Perhaps one of his favourite hymns. As the photo suggests we weren’t the only recent visitors he has had. Not too far away is the grave of Enoch Powell, flanked by those of a number of his Warwickshire Regiment comrades.

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