Event celebrated the 100th anniversary of the book's publishing

Sunday, October 21, 2012 marked exactly 100 years since the publishing of A Wiltshire Village, Alfred's first book of prose, which tells of life in and around his home village of South Marston.

To celebrate the centenary, the Alfred Williams Heritage Society hosted a special celebration at the Carpenters Arms, South Marston.

The event featured readings from the book, including many people who have special connections with the text, and a few songs performed by AWHS chairman John Cullimore, composer of The Hammerman.

Co-founder and secretary of the society, Caroline Ockwell, who compered the evening, said: "We couldn't let the 100th anniversary of Alfred's book go by without marking it in some way, so we thought we would have a small party.

"The main idea was just to bring interested people together at this significant moment in time and raise a glass to Alfred in the actual village where the book is set."

The event saw a number of people who have specific connections with the book reading passages from it, starting with Anne Wang who read a foreword to an edition of the book published in 1981 which had been written by her father, the late Jack Maisey, who was born 29 years after Alfred, but in the same room at Cambria Cottage. Anne's brother Roger also later read an extract about their great-grandfather, William Maisey.

Jim Fisher, who had traveled from Luton for the event, also read from the book. He has connections with a number of South Marston families.

Paul Williams, who is descended from one of Alfred's sisters, read a passage about Patsy the watercress man because he is originally from Hinton Parva, which, along with its neighbouring village of Bishopstone, was formerly renowned for its watercress beds.

Caroline Ockwell, who has several ancestors who feature in the book and Alfred's poems, read extracts about plate-layers and the tiny South Marston chapel, while long-time supporters of the society John Forster and Roy Burton read various descriptive pieces about the local landscape.

Richard Sansum read from the chapter featuring his ancestor, Dudley Sansum, whom he confirmed was actually baptized Thomas, and former Mayor of Swindon Derek Benfield did two readings, about the workhouse and the Cherry Feast.

A couple of poems were also selected. These do not appear in the book, but one was published in the same month, and these were read by Graeme Franklin and Kaye Franklin MBE from the Friends of Alfred Williams.

Laurie and Des Jones traveled from the Midlands to take part, and read a charming piece about their ancestor Jacky Bridges' cottage and another relative, the tragic Thomas Dowdeswell, as well as a poem about the latter, called Lines on a Suicide.

It's fair to say that the show was stolen by 81-year-old Eric Barnes, the farmer of Catsbrain Farm, between Kingsdown and South Marston, which features very briefly in the book. Eric dressed for the part and joined forces with Chris Park to deliver descriptions and dialogue about the old shepherd (pictured), and Eric also later read an extract about Burton Grove Farm.

The evening was rounded off with a short extract from The Testament, also published in 1912, read by John Cullimore.

Visitors were also be able to buy a pint of an exclusive draught beer, put on especially for the event by Arkell's, for one night only, called Village Centenary ale.

"We were delighted with the way the evening went," said Caroline Ockwell, and we would like to say thank-you to everybody who came, and especially those who read. It was a nice way of commemorating the centenary and we are already thinking of doing something similar, next year, for the anniversary of the publishing of Villages of the White Horse."

Earlier in October 2012, the centenary of the publishing of Alfred's third book of verse, Nature and Other Poems, was celebrated by an event during the Swindon Festival of Poetry.