I recently came across an interesting news article published on the 20th October 1965 in The Sun newspaper concerning one of our long-departed residents – the wonderfully named Octavius T Hulbert. He was remembered in the late Fred Ireland’s memories of Eastington, recorded in 1992, where Fred recalled the celebrations at the end of the First World War (see ECN back issues 141 and 142):
I well remember the last World War peace celebrations. Tea and concerts in the Rector’s Hall and burning the effigy of Little Willie, the German crown prince, in front of the King’s Head Hotel.
As part of the celebrations, Octavius Hulbert sang comic songs, and later, there was a fancy dress exhibition on the cricket field, complete with a band seated on a farm wagon, with Octavius playing his trombone.
In later years, Octavius became a member of the Air Ministry Constabulary. This operated between 1942 and 1967, and was tasked with safeguarding military airfields. At its peak during the Second World War, it had a workforce of 3500 officers. However, after his retirement in 1957, Octavius slipped into a role that many parents would find even more stressful than protecting military establishments!
It started simply, just walking his two grandchildren to the village school in the mornings. However, this innocent pastime quickly blossomed into something else. As the Sun reported:
Yesterday morning Octavius was escorting 20 or more children across a busy main road [presumably by the village hall] and three quarters of a mile along a lane to their school.
The article goes on to note that there was no shortage of work for such a volunteer, as the mothers were ‘particularly busy’ early in the day, and grateful for his shepherding of their offspring to school.
The article stated that Octavius, who was 73 at the time, was clearly an engaging person to be with. The children took it in turns to walk with him, to hear his funny stories, and to hold the lead of his dog.
The children called him Grampy. The villagers called him the Pied Piper.