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By: John Hedley

Double Gloucester

Pages: 190 Ratings:
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In The King’s England Arthur Mee wrote of Gloucestershire that “nowhere is England more like herself than in the county of the Severn and the Thamesâ€. John Hedley aims to celebrate Mee’s words in this book, Double Gloucester, a compendium of drama scenes from the history of Gloucestershire linked by a narrator. Extracts and titles of works by poets and composers who had connections with the county abound.  But the main purpose of Hedley’s book is not to highlight the achievements of Gloucestershire’s artists, but of its people in peace and war. Arguably the county’s motto, ‘Prorsum Semper’, meaning ‘Ever Upright’ is relevant here, but perhaps that begs too many questions.

John Hedley (not his real name) was brought up in Gloucestershire and spent 20 years of his life in Charlton Kings. Educated at Cheltenham, where he was a day boy, and at Wadham College, Oxford; he proved to be a disreputable disappointment in both of these distinguished institutions. Hedley went on to teach in the state sector. As a schoolmaster, he directed a number of plays, which included a full production of Henry IV part 1. Also, in a staff-room context, he was the lead singer in a Gregorian plainchant choir, and the baritone soloist in Gabriel Fauré’s Requiem. Subsequently, John Hedley returned to evening classes in Bradford to strengthen the O and A Level base of his inadequate qualifications, then got a master’s degree at Leeds University, scraping a mark of 60%. Going on to pass the first two parts of a London University BSc in Economics with an aggregate mark of 59.5%, he refused to take the third part because the syllabus had been radically altered in relation to his initial expectations, depriving him of examination papers he could have coped with effectively. 

At the end of his career, Hedley was a teacher of A Level Economics, and Head of History at a northern Catholic school. He managed just to lead his department creditably through three Ofsted inspections. This was achieved primarily by producing the requisite word-processed documentation and by delegating the teaching of the most important classes to competent colleagues. 

In May 2005, during his last term there, John Hedley wrote and directed a VE Day 60th anniversary memorial concert. This involved a PowerPoint presentation, and contributions by choirs and by dancers. It was this event, along with his portfolio of experience in extra-curricular music and drama, that has provided the template for Double Gloucester. Upon retiring, he became an appealer for the charity 'Aid to the Church in Need' in the North West, and also gave talks on historical topics across Lancashire and Cumbria to those who shared his interests. Although an exile from the County of Gloucester, he has never lost his enthusiasm for its landscape and its people–past as well as present. Five years ago, Hedley felt impelled to turn his attention from his present Lancastrian home territory–and through exploratory reading and rudimentary research–to revisit Gloucestershire, where he spent most of his first quarter of a century. This volume is the result of all that.

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