Book speaks to avid collector

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Elizabeth Francis, of Ohai, holds a collection of books which attracted her son Kevin Francis, also of Ohai, to buy in a second-hand shop in Milton recently.

SOME items talk to us.

Kevin Francis, of Ohai, an avid collector of old things, bought a small cache of books from a second-hand shop in Milton recently.

It drew him, he said.

It was Jane Austen’s Persuasion, bound in royal blue which first got his attention.

Katherine Mansfield’s Selected Stories, with its gold embossed South Otago High School monogram on the hard cover which had been awarded to Elspeth Carson in 1956 for Diligence, was also among the small collection.

As was Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, which was always fated to attract attention, bound in its antique green hard cover.

But it was the small well-worn gold embossed, green leather-bound book, Tennyson and his Poetry, which spoke the most to Mr Francis.

Glued inside the cover and facing page was a hand-written note and poem to Lieutenant Albert Paisley just before he embarked overseas in 1916 by his friend Harold Philpott.

It read: Wellington,
8.11.1916
To my friend, Albert Paisley, Lieutenant with the 19th Reinforcements of the N.Z. Expeditionary Forces:
‘‘Au Revoir — mon Camarade’’
That’s what the Frenchmen say,
But you and I ‘ill just say ‘‘Good Bye’’,
In the British Bull-dog way.

The green leather bound book. Poem and note dated November 8, 1916, inside the Tennyson and his Poetry book found in a Milton second-hand shop recently.

God knows how I’ll miss you, lad,
and grieve because you go,
from rising sun till the day is done,
Ah! boy. I’ll miss you so.
God knows how I’ll envy you,
when ‘neath foreign skies you lie,
I seem to hear you lead the cheer,
‘‘We shall conquer, or we’ll die’’
England boasts to all the world,
what Englishmen can do,
and if all her men are like you, then,
old England’s praise no due.
God keep you safe, old pal of mine,
Is the only wish I send,
But wherever you be, you’ll have in me,
a Champion, and a friend.
Good Luck, Bert.
Yours very Sincerely,
Harold Philpott

As he pondered this small collection of items, he wondered — ‘did they belong to the same person’?, What was their story?’’

He had read parts of the Tennyson book as well as the hand-written poem, and it made him wonder… ‘‘his friend is off on a journey…’’

The more he wondered, the more he felt the small book should be returned, ideally to the family of Paisley who it was originally given to, or if they could not be found, then a member of Philpott family.

‘‘If the book had not had the provenance, I would have kept it,’’ he said.

‘‘But because of the letter, it needed to go on another journey, which I think is quite fitting.’’

The note raised many questions, he said.

It was written during World War 1.

‘‘Did they meet up in Wellington while they were enlisted?

‘‘Were they buddies before enlistment or training?

‘‘Did they ever meet up again after the war?

‘‘What was the book’s provenance?’’

The cover of the book near the spine is well worn, as if it had been held many times.

Its rough-hewn pages shows its age, with age spots throughout its leaves.

Mr Francis said he ‘‘loved stuff that’s made properly’’.

‘‘One hundred years ago people made stuff that lasted forever… it was made with people’s hands… and someone’s spirit went into it when it was made.

‘‘The book could tell an amazing story,’’ he said.

‘‘If it did make it to the front lines [during the war] and back, it could tell…’’

Mr Francis said going by the note, with its introduction of Au Revoir — mon Camarade, it sounded as if Lt Paisley was heading to France. And he was.

According to Albert Durward Paisley’s war records he left New Zealand on November 15, 1916, a week after the dated note and poem, as part of the 19th Reinforcements, Otago Infantry Battalion, D Company, NZ Expeditionary Force which eventually went on to serve in France.

The small well-worn book from his friend may have offered some comfort to him on the battlefields on the other side of the world to his native New Zealand.

Previous to being sent to the European battlegrounds, Paisley had served in Samoa in the 5th (Wellington) Regiment as part of the Samoan Advance Party.

Born on April 6, 1894, to Agnes (nee Potter) and John Paisley in Dunedin, at the time of his enlistment his father lived at 11 Islington St, Upper Junction North East Valley, Dunedin.

Paisley’s last address before enlistment in WW1 stated he resided at the YMCA, Willis St, Wellington.

Paisley’s war records state he had been a New Zealand Government civil servant with the occupant of clerk.

At some stage he had worked in the agricultural department — this may have been where Paisley and Philpott’s paths crossed, as Philpott had a life-long interest in the dairy sector.

Awarded Military Cross
In WW1 he was awarded a Military Cross, a medal created on December 28, 1914, in recognition of ‘‘an act or acts of exemplary gallantry during active operations against the enemy on land’’.

Recorded in the Supplement to the London Gazette on November 26, 1917, 2nd Lt (A/Capt) Albert Durward Paisley, Inf, was acknowledged as being awarded a Military Cross, which was the second highest military decoration awarded to officers of the British Armed Forces at the time.

Paisley married Pearl Hoddinott in 1920.

His last address was 23 Main Rd, Owaka in the Catlins. He died on July 5, 1981, aged 87, 17 years after his wife, and both were buried in the Andersons Bay Cemetery in Dunedin.

Because Owaka was relatively close to Milton, this may be a reason why his treasured Tennyson book ended up in a second-hand shop.

Maybe while clearing out his estate, his books were simply gathered together, without anyone noticing the poignant note and poem dated 1916 inside, and delivered to the shop.

George Philpott
Born to Maria and George Tulbot Philpott in 1895, Harold Philpott had an interest in the dairy industry, writing the book A History of the NZ Dairy Industry 1940-1935, which was published in 1937 by Wellington Government Printer.

Among his papers stored in the National Library of New Zealand archives was a letter from John Mulgan discussing poetry.

He married Leonora Doreen Harper in 1925. He died in 1967, seven years after his wife and both were buried in the Karori Cemetery in Wellington.

  • For more information, email janette.gellatly@southlandexpress.co.nz
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