George Townshend

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George Townshend: was born at Wootten Farm, East Chiltington, near Lewes, on August 29th, 1882.  His father was bailiff of Wootten Farm at that time, but when George was seven years old, his father decided to take over The Jolly Sportsman at East Chiltington on September 29th 1888, and on that occasion George made his first public appearance as a singer.  He was stood on a form beside his father and together they sang the two songs with which they were to make a practice of opening their double turn: The Echoing Horn and When the Spring Comes In, two songs which his father had taught him.  His father was well-known locally as a singer, and for many years they sang together in harmony, the older singer taking the bass part.

His father soon returned to farming and at eleven years old, George joined him.  He worked at farming for 7½ years, and his first job was as a carter boy and from this he graduated to horseman, and even stand-in oxman for a while.  The Great Lewes Sheep and All Cattle Fair in September was the biggest day of the year, and later when the cattle had been sold, George and his father, together with others who liked singing, would retire to a large tent or booth for about three hours of songs.  That was the day in the year when you could really hear songs, as there were singers from miles around, including many shepherds who were normally unable to join in the pub evenings.

Like Bob Hart, George’s time in farming was terminated by an argument and he entered the employ of the Brighton & South Coast Railway company, going into the engineer’s office as a timekeeper.  That was in 1901.  In 1908 he married a local woman, became a sergeant in the Volunteer Company of the Royal Garrison Artillery, and in 1914 he joined up, full time.  He was sent to France, railroading.

George returned to the railway after the war and remained there until December 31st 1949.  During the last eight years he was Personal Messenger to the Chief Mechanical Engineer at Brighton.

He was taken by his father to see fox hunting when he was three years of age, and he continued to follow the Southdown Hunt on foot until 1964 when ill-health prevented him.  Hunting songs had a great appeal for him.

--RodStradling 17:55, 26 March 2007 (BST)