Vestry and correspondence, 1870

Bucks Herald, 16 April

  ELECTION OF GUARDIANS.- At a vestry meeting held on the 25th ult., to elect two guardians for the ensuing year, three candidates were nominated, consequently the ratepayers had to decide upon the event, and voting papers were issued.  The result of the poll was as follows:- Mr. H. Monk, 258; Mr. John Grace, 241; Mr. John Ingram, 64.  We must not omit to say that the friends of the two successful candidates were very spirited in their endeavours to place them (most decisively) at the head of the poll, as the numbers stated verify.

Buckingham Advertiser, 7 May

To the Editor of the Buckingham Advertiser

  Sir,- I enclose you what professes to be a parady [sic] on a popular song, and, when I tell you that I am the person so pleasantly alluded to as “Champagne Johnny,” I trust you will give my letter publicity in your journal.  I shall not condescend to defend myself; I have no doubt my fellow-townsmen will do that readily enough:-

There was a man whose name was John,
And he was very paunchy,
He built up a great red house,
And for Guardian he stood staunchly,
Though Monk and Grace, they did step in
And put him to the rout,
For when he found the poll was closed,
Poor Johnny was knocked out.

For Champagne Johnny is my name,
And a Champagne Feast is my game,
I’ll swear black’s white or purge my boys,
I’ll swear black’s white or purge my boys,
Champagne Johnny is my name,
Two glasses gin and water is my game,
Sammy is the boy to mow my grass,
And Nanny is the girl for a game.

Now Johnny was a forward man,
To put our big fires out,
Till the Frenchman came and called him back
And led him by the snout.
He gave his guineas like a man,
In hopes of gaining double;
But his fond hopes were blasted,
And it ended in a bubble.

Chorus,- For Champagne Johnny, &c.

The taxes now are high, my boys,
And Johnny puts them on,
No four legged animal can (ever) trot along
For threepence in the pound, my boys,
Is a trifle not despised,
No matter if the people
Do c-------e and d------n your eyes.

Chorus,- For Champagne Johnny, &c.

  The author’s name evidently should be ‘Ignoramus’; but you will observe he does not append it to his effusion- possibly he may have a faint conception that such an infamous libel is not a credit to him - although I fear that is expecting too much, as, doubtless his intellectual standard is peculiar to himself.  There is, however, more craft in his production, than one marks at first sight.

  It is not necessary for me to point out the gross ignorance that, throughout, is its chief characteristic or the scurrilous vulgarity in which the author rejoices.  The composition is heavier than coal and quite as black.  I do not speak of the “Authors,” as I am loath to believe that any two heads could have been engaged in the work; but if so, I will simply remark in the words of a suggestive old saying, “Pins have heads and so have they” and they no doubt “composed” during the month of April.

  The composition forcibly reminds one of that which emanates from certain seedy-looking individuals residing in the vicinity of Seven Dials; who for a few pence will in as many minutes knock off a song for ragged urchins to bawl at street corners and in low neighbourhoods, and which meets with the approbation and countenance of weak and debased minds only.  The last four lines of the first verse were probably written during a period of mental aberration. Then the chorus - patience Mr. Editor, whilst I ask what is meant by making me say “I will forswear myself, or physic my children?”  For that is the English rendering of the words “I’ll swear black’s white, or purge my boys.”

  Can the author be sane?  I will conclude by referring you to the third line of the last verse for a painful symptom of imbecility; and to the last line for a still more painful sign of depraved vulgarity.

Buckingham Advertiser, 21 May

To the Editor of the Buckingham Advertiser.

  SIR,- I feel myself called upon to notice some of the facts upon which are based those contemptible verses that appeared in the Buckingham Advertiser on the 7th inst., respecting “Champagne Johnny.”  I was very glad to see that Mr. Ingram in a spirited manner administered a sound castigation to the authors, and I hope that they feel heartily ashamed of themselves.  I did not trouble you last week with this letter, as I fully expected that those gentlemen whose names are so audaciously introduced [Monk & Grace] would have publicly disclaimed having had any share in such a gross insult to Mr. Ingram; and that you would not therefore care to receive so many letters at once on the same subject.  Such a denial was certainly due to themselves.

  Now, it often happens that beneficial effects arise out of very insignificant causes, and those verses give an opportunity for bringing some facts before the Winslow public, and asking a few questions of certain parties.  Keeping in view, then, the tenor of the first verse, let me for a moment take ratepayers memories back to the time when gross abuses were sanctioned by the Lighting Committee (a very few years ago); when its most influential members were likewise shareholders in the Gas Company.  This reminiscence will bring a great many grievances to mind that such a state of things naturally favoured.  I will mention only one: The four lamps in the Station Road belong to the Railway Company, who have always paid for the lights, and yet it is an undenied fact that the Gas Company for many years charged them to the parish as well, and it is to be supposed that the then Lighting Committee sanctioned it.

  It does not require comment to expose such a palpable fraud.  Mr. Ingram ascertained these facts, got himself put on the committee, and put a stop to the gross abuse; thus saving annually a considerable sum to the parish.

  It was the cause of the Gas Company shareholders vacating their seats on the Committee, as he threatened them with the penalty named in the Act, which of course was beneficial in many ways.

  This overcharge ought to have been refunded, but owing to the influence of some of the retiring members, it was not, and the matter got hushed up.   The Secretary of the Committee refused to produce his books; he, too, was a shareholder in the Gas Company [see Vestry 1862].  Mr. Ingram has already sat as Guardian for one year, with good effect, so much so that the “Conservative” spirit which to a great extent rules parish matters at Winslow at present, was fearfully unwilling that he should sit again.  One abuse he strove to reform, but failed on account of opposition, was the allowing of the drapery, &c., required for “The House” to be purchased at particular shops, instead of having it contracted for in the proper way.  I cannot say what amount this costs the parish unnecessarily, but I know that “many a mickle makes a muckle,” and for this and other reasons the rate is very high, that is, higher than it ought to be.

  I cannot enter into these matters so fully as is required on account of space.  I have said this much to show that it is a matter of regret that Mr. Ingram was “knocked out” of being guardian.  We require more earnest reformers like him in office.  There is plenty of work for them to do.

  The second verse alludes to the purchase of a fire engine for the Town, which purchase is an accomplished fact; albeit the song says “It ended in a bubble.”  After Mr. Ingram proposed and carried “that the engine should be bought by subscribed funds, and not by way of a rate,” a specification of what was required was sent to two eminent makers for a tender of terms, which was duly furnished by both.  One offered to supply an engine of the class required, for I believe £32 less than the other, making the remark that such a low price was quoted on the condition that no tradesman should have a pecuniary interest in the the matter.  To the other tender no such proviso was attached.  John Ingram’s proposal to purchase the lowest priced engine (it was guaranteed for seven years) was disregarded.  Two gentlemen were appointed to go and inspect the engines of both makers, and report thereon, which they did, recommending that the highest priced one should be purchased; and it was done.  Now the responsibility of this additional expenditure of £32 rests with those gentlemen, and we are entitled to know their reasons.  They may be good and only need explanation, but it will be satisfactory to all subscribers to hear that they received no commission, or gratuity, for reporting favourable of Messrs. Merewether.  I can add that many of the subscribers now regret that they gave anything, on account of the apparent waste of money.  It is not for a moment to be supposed that Messrs. Merewether’s engine is in any way better than that offered by Messrs. Sland, Mason and Co.  The public competition trials at Glasgow on the 18th March last proves the contrary.

  In conclusion I will only say that it is better perhaps to pity the authors of those verses, than to chastise them, for very likely they did their very best.

I am, Sir, yours respectfully,

Winslow, May 19th.

To the Editor of the Buckingham Advertiser.

  SIR- Your impression of the 7th inst., contains what was intended to be a piece of poetry, composed to the tune of “Champagne Charley.”  Whoever the authors or author of such miserable rubbish may be, cannot have much knowledge either of rhyme or music, otherwise their composition would be more in harmony with their adopted tune; and their having such dogrell printed and placed surreptitiously in letter boxes, and under street doors, fully exposes their mental calibre.  It is with some degree of satisfaction that I see their insolence has received what it richly merits, viz.- a severe criticism from the pen of Mr. John Ingram. 

I see their second verse commences as follows - “Now Johnny was a forward man, To put our big fires out,” I must respectfully ask the authors what fires they allude to, for, during my residence in Winslow, which is rather a long period, I am not aware of any big fires occurring.  I do not remember having heard of the old fire engine’s assistance being required for many years.  The only fires I can conceive of are those created in their imagination - possibly when once elated with the liquors, the name of which occurs rather frequently in the chorus.  If the authors are not too much ashamed of their production, perhaps they may be induced to give an explanation of the meaning they intend to convey in the next two lines of the second verse, for evidently they must be well acquainted with this animal - the most prominent part of whose anatomy they seem so familiar with, and whose grunts would in some degree harmonise with their song, as an accompaniment.

  Sir, as to Johnny giving his guineas like a man, in hopes of gaining double, I ask what right has any man to write such a libel against another without being able to prove it.  The only conclusion I can arrive at is, that those who will so wantonly charge a fellow-man have most likely been guilty of such practices themselves, and I would ask them to remember the the ancient motto Honi soit qui mal y pense.

  A word or two as to the facts of the case.  Some time since at a vestry meeting, the desirability of furnishing a new fire engine was a matter of consideration.  But the very natural question arose, “How are the funds to be raised?  Some spoke of a rate; Mr. Ingram more wisely suggested a voluntary subscription.  This method by a few was thought impracticable, but Mr. Ingram thought otherwise, and, with the aid of a few influential gentlemen, determined to make an effort.  The result is our town is now supplied with an engine, which I hope will never be required, for I am one of those who fear that, should it be wanted, its use will be about the same as the ancient warrior, who, at the first sound of the enemies’ approach, mounted his charger and dashed into the thickest of the fight; but to his dismay, he found, when too late, that he had forgotten his sword.  So with the fire engine; if required, where is the water to come from.

  I believe this Mr. Ingram to be a man possessing more than ordinary experience in knowing how and where to buy the best articles at the cheapest rate, and he set about procuring what he considered to be the best fire engine at the lowest rate, and obtained prices from the most eminent makers - one being £32 lower, on the express condition that no tradesman should have any premium or consideration in the matter.  But, as suspicious people are always in fear, and never at their ease, they suspected Mr. Ingram wanted profit.  But how in the face of the manufacturers’ tenders they could imagine any such thing, I am at a loss to conceive.  Consequently there was a split in the camp, and others took the matter in hand - the result being that a considerable sum was lost to the parish.  But could anything better be expected, seeing that a representative of the yard stick was one of the inspectors, duly appointed, and expenses paid, for a trip to London, to find out the best constructed fire engine. I do not hear any person of ordinary judgment finding fault with Johnny, his detractors for the most part consisting of beardless boys who are described by an able author of the present day, as having arrived at that time of life when he can only describe them as hobble-de-hoys.

I am, respectfully yours,

Winslow, May 19th, 1870.

Buckingham Express, 4 June

  JUDGING from published specimens, poetry at Winslow is in a very declining state, and if an immense improvement does not take place, it will be a long time ere it produces a successor to the Laureate.  In the last issue of the Christian World, an advertising votary of Parnassus, hailing from the classic realm of Winslow, thus breaks forth into song-

“A steady Young Man, for a Situation looks,
In which he’ll be required to attend to the books;
His reference is good, and he knew well his trade -
To solicit orders is especially made.”

The last line is exceptionally poetic, & the delicate way in which it is hinted that the author of the poem was made with a view to take orders for sugar and plums, &c. shows that he is possessed of a fine organ of ideality.  In fact it is altogether of a superior order to the production of the other poets in that direction, whose strains were inspired by Mr. Ingram, and the fire-engine. But it would be well for all of them not to appear in print for some time at any rate in rhyme; though if they find it impossible to cease from invoking the Muse - the suggestion that it may be done very successfully by pinching the cat’s tail - may not be unacceptable.


The "great red house" is evidently 3 Market Square, which was being built for W.H. French (the "Frenchman").

"Sammy" might be Samuel Burnham Dudley, who had sued Henry Monk for libel.

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Copyright 11 July, 2020