"Crossing the White Line"
WALTER TULL COMMEMORATIONS
- ART WORKSHOP AT CRABBLE
Crabble Corn Mill was built in 1812, when Napoleon had
threatened to emulate William the conqueror (or William the B*stard
as he's properly known in unconquered Kent) and annexe our
little nation of shopkeepers. With the continental system
obstructing imports, and the need to feed British troops, mills
were not only needed, but probably a good business investment as
Fortunes change. Just eight decades later the Mill was no longer
commercially viable. Fortunately, it was kept in a good state of
order until the late 1950s, when it was abandoned. Twenty years
later the Mill was a virtual wreck.
The Mill was saved by a Trust of enthusiasts and local
volunteers, and now, nearly three centuries after it was built,
it's a focal point for the community. Weddings, funerals, folk
quizzes, and talks - and an annual beer festival - are held
here. Oh, and the mill still sells its own flour, ground by a
new generation of traditional millers.
In the ground floor gallery a group of young people met to paint
two of the panels for part of an exhibition later in the year.
Designed by London artist Jonathan Boast, the panels depict
Walter Tull's two pioneering careers, as the first black
outfield professional football player, and, during the Great
War, as the first black combat officer in the British army.
The panels are to be painted in places associated with Walter's
life. The first two were done in Northamptonshire, where Walter
played for Northampton Town, and segments three and four will be
finished in Glasgow, where his brother Edward lived, and London,
where Walter and Edward stayed in an orphanage after their
parents had both died. .
The second segment, which Jonathan assures us
was the most complicated(!), was painted in Dover, at the Mill.
It's a fortuitous spot, because Walter's two younger sisters,
Elsie, and half-sister Miriam, lived close by, with Walter's
stepparents, Clara and William Beer. The family would have seen
the Mill often - perhaps as they strolled home after
- and, who knows, maybe even Walter himself would have
done so, when he came to visit his family.
If the picture is tricky to fill in, it helps
to have your friends along! The Right Worshipful The Mayor of
Dover, Councillor Bob Markham, dropped in to lend a hand -or
rather, brush - as did the Chairman of the River Parish Council,
Councillor Derek Leach, OBE. The event attracted a fair amount
of publicity - one wag was heard to suggest the next day's
headlines could be "A Brush with History".
A master of historical arts is Alan Goldup.
He's one of the Millers, and here he is, below, dressing a
millstone. Maintaining the "farrels" and "lands" is a skilled task - and it's
not one to get wrong, either. The penalty is not only
badly-ground meal, but, as the stones rub, one against another,
could be sparks too. That's not something to be recommended, in
a flour-dust laden atmosphere in a wooden mill!
Alan kindly guided a tour around the mill for our young
people, introducing them to more delightful words as "wallower",
"tiver", and "bist"*. He also
introduced them to the
not-so-delightful rat-catcher, whose wife really did cut
off their tails with a carving knife. (She then would
present them to the miller to prove her husband had
earned his fee!)
Residents of the mill not so
unwelcome are the ghosts. One is said to be that of a
boy who died when he
was trapped in the working mill machinery; he's been
seen by a number of visitors and volunteers. They ghosts
were quiet this time - perhaps advisedly so, as the lad who
asked the most questions on the tour ended up with an
to try his hand at stone dressing!
After lunch it was back to the painting again. Walter's stripey
football kit is becoming clearly visible. When the panels are
all completed, they'll be displayed at the National Army Museum,
and then the National Football Museum. The exhibition is part of
the commemorations this year for Walter Tull - it's the 120th
anniversary of his birth and the 90th of his death. Led by the
City of Westminster Archives and funded by the Heritage Lottery
Fund, "Crossing the White Line" is a collaboration between the
museums, the Football Association, Kick It Out!, the Scottish
Football Museum, Methodist Central Hall, NCH, and the Dover War
Memorial Project. There are a number of events - others include
senior citizens' discussion groups, drama workshops, and the
creation of an animated film by Walter's old school, now known
as Mundella School, in Folkestone.
Here's Jonathan, with the next two panels
completed. Doesn't he look pleased! And rightly so - the panels
Our young folk got a round of applause as
Councillor Derek Leach kindly presented all of them with
of achievement, and goody bags supplied by Dover Town
Here they all are, a good day's work well
done, and a grand day at the Mill.
But what of Walter Tull? We'd all gathered to
remember him and his amazing achievements - but he's been
remembered close by for over eighty years.
The local church is just up the road. It was
the family church - in the 1920s both his sisters married there.
Inside the church is a memorial scroll, and outside, a war
memorial. On both Walter Tull's name is commemorated. In 1921,
when the memorial was unveiled, his family were there. They laid
a wreath, "From Mum and Dad, Elsie and Miriam".
Dual heritage, an icon of our modern age, a
national hero and pioneer - perhaps the greatest epitaph
of all is that Walter Tull, like so many others, remained a
much-loved and sorely-missed son and brother.
pictures by Simon John Chambers
*Post Script - what do the words mean - and more. See
The Miller's Tale