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William Barnes and My Father
Sam Jeffery


My father was Donald Behenna Jeffery and he was born in 1919. I remember him talking about William Barnes, extolling his writing, and praising his poetry. I know his interest took him to William Barnes Society meetings because I found programmes in the books I have presented to the Society and Trevor W Hearl’s ‘William Barnes The Schoolmaster’, which I have kept, has an inscription written in 1975. I think his love and not inconsiderable knowledge of the quiet Dorset countryside, and its wildlife (especially birds), is the element with which he identified with the quiet gentle William Barnes. I remember him reading ‘A Bit O’ Sly Coorten’ with his second wife in very good Dorset dialect.

Donald Behenna Jeffery was born in Dorchester and went to the Hardye’s Grammar School. He was commissioned into the Royal Navy and served during WWII, however he returned to Dorchester in 1953 to join his father in the gun business in High East Street. His working knowledge of guns was considerable, and he taught shooting, but his great love was fishing, trout fishing on the Frome, and although he could not approach the shadow of the incredible scholar’s knowledge and achievements, my father would have been a good teacher with his love of reading and knowledge of history.

I was fortunate enough to have been left many of my father’s books but I am in the process of reducing my belongings, a very natural but painful experience, and although I have given many to my children and other family members, I thought that the two volumes of Barnes’ poetry would be best enjoyed by devotees of William Barnes. I hope they will be.

Donald Jeffery died in 1995 and at his Remembrance Service my daughter read the lines from William Barnes’ statue outside St Peter’s Church; for us they were powerful and appropriate.

‘But now I hope his kindly face
Is gone to find a better place
But still with folk a-left behind
He’ll always be a-kept in mind’.

Sam Jeffery has very kindly donated The Poems of William Barnes Edited by Bernard Jones Vol 1 in Dorset Dialect and The Poems of William Barnes Edited by Bernard Jones Vol 2 in National English to the Society.

If any member is interested in loaning these books please contact Secretary, William Barnes Society.

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