Sunday, December 18, 2011

Simon Evans - Cleobury Poet Postman Writer and Broadcaster

Another local writer and character from Cleobury, that might be of interest to former pupils is Simon Evans. I can't recall being aware of him while at Cleobury in the 60's but here's the story...

From Wiki -
Cleobury Mortimer, former post office Lower Street, with post box & stamp machine.
Plaque refers to Simon Evans, local postman - writer

"Simon Evans (10 August 1895 – 9 August 1940), was a postman with the GPO for most of his short life but also developed a reputation in the 1930s as a writer and broadcaster on country life, particularly in and around rural South Shropshire. He had five books published by Heath Cranton Ltd within a seven-year span (1931–38) before his death in 1940. In recent years a collection of his writings has been published, and other memorials created, including plaques in Cleobury Mortimer, where he lived for 14 years, and a 28-km walk based on his postal round stretching from Cleobury Mortimer deep into the South Shropshire countryside."

You will also find some interesting material on the Cleobury Mortimer District History Society site which has a lot of other material you may find interesting. In particular, among their Chronicles there are a couple of letters by Simon Evans regarding his book Applegarth. You do have to be a member to access the material and some of you might want to join the history society which meets monthly at Neen Savage (see website for details).

Again from Wiki 
Simon Evans was born at Tynyfedu, Wales, not far from Lake Vyrnwy, a reservoir supplying water to Liverpool. His father, Ellis Evans, was a farmer, but the family farm was too poor to support a growing number of sons, so Ellis and his family left Wales for Merseyside around 1907. Simon, tall for his age, and speaking with a strong Welsh accent, did not have an easy time at school, but did owe his love of literature to an influential teacher. When he left school, he worked for the General Post Office as a messenger boy and postman.

On the outbreak of the First World War, Evans joined the 16th Battalion of the Cheshire Regiment, and spent much of the next five years in trench warfare, an experience which left him mentally and physically scarred. He was wounded and invalided back to England at least once, and finally wounded and gassed in 1918.

Evans returned to Merseyside after an operation on his wounded legs, but found himself unable to settle down to the life of an urban postman. Gas damage to his lungs meant he still had to spent time in convalescent homes, and on one occasion was advised to take a walking holiday before returning to his work as a postman. This holiday he took in or near Cleobury Mortimer, and there he found a postman willing to exchange a rural postal round for Simon's urban one. With some difficulty, an exchange was arranged, and Evans took up work in Cleobury Mortimer in 1926

His new life in Cleobury Mortimer suited him perfectly. He later claimed that as a country postman he knew many more people than he had known when working in a town. At the time, the GPO provided rural walking postmen with shelter huts at the further point of their rounds, and Evans took full advantage of his, turning it into a place where he could read, write, and even spend the nights when off duty. In 1928, he won a scholarship offered by the Union of Post Office Workers to enroll on a correspondence course in English at Ruskin College, Oxford. This was to prove a turning point in his career, as it opened the door to literature, and led to his becoming a published writer and a broadcaster.

Starting as a writer of short articles, largely about rural life as experienced by a country postman, Evans soon caught the attention of the BBC and became a regular contributor to programmes on the Midland Service. His broadcasts were heard by Shannie, the daughter of Heath Cranton who suggested to her father that Evans' work would be worth publishing in book form. A meeting between Cranton, Evans, and Rev. Rope (one of Cranton's existing authors) was arranged, and this resulted in the publication of Evans' first book on 20 March 1931. This was a collection of short items, most of which had already appeared in print or on the air. It was followed by his second book the following year, and three more in the next few years. His first book, Round About the Crooked Steeple, was the most successful, and the only one to be reprinted, the first reprint being dated 9 April 1931, only 20 days after the first impression. Throughout the 1930s, not only did Evans continue to work as a postman, but he also continued to write for periodicals, mostly local, but also occasionally for national weekly magazines and even daily newspapers. He often re-wrote or re-worked earlier pieces, and re-submitted these for publication elsewhere. A particular idea or anecdote, therefore, might appear in several publications, might also be broadcast on the BBC, and finally end up in one of his books. Four of his books were largely collections of articles which had already been published and broadcast pieces, but one, Applegarth, was a full-length novel, and one which was so constructed as to admit of a sequel, should the opportunity arise.

Although sometimes referred to as a poet, Evans wrote little poetry, though frequently quoted poems by others in his books. His biographer, Mark Baldwin, has argued that Evans was more of a craftsman than an imaginative writer.

His frequent visits to the BBC studio in Birmingham brought Evans into contact with a professional singer and entertainer, Doris Aldridge, who was working at the time in children's radio as "Aunty Doris". They were married in 1938, and lived in a house in Cleobury Mortimer, built to their own design. Less than two years later, Evans was badly affected by his recurring lung trouble, resulting most likely from the mustard gassing he suffered in the First World War, and died in a hospital in Birmingham on 9 August 1940, the day before what would have been his 45th birthday. There were no children of the marriage, and his widow soon left Cleobury Mortimer to pursue her professional career. She never remarried, and died in 2006."
From Wiki

About his Books 
Other links

Round about the crooked steeple (1931), At Abdon Burf (1932) and More tales from round about the crooked steeple (1935) were collections of stories all set in or around Cleobury Mortimer and the Clee Hills. His one novel Applegarth (1936) is said to be partly autobiographical and, like all his work, uses a mixture of real and fictional places. Simon Evans finally succumbed to the effects of the poison gas and died in Selly Oak Hospital Birmingham on 8th August 1940.

Simon Evan's book Round the Crooked Steeple inspired the name of the Cleobury Mortimer Morris Dancers - Crooked Steeple Morris


  1. Trev
    You probably weren't aware of him because he had graduated to the beyond years before you set foot.

  2. Ha ha Ralph - you are right! Good to see my euphemism "Graduated to the beyond" doing the rounds!! I suspect I might not have been interested in him at that early age!

  3. Hobsons Brewery,Cleobury Mortimer,have brought out a beer 'Postman's Knock' as a tribute to Simon Evans.Initially a bottled beer,Hobsons have recently introduced it on draught.

  4. Thank you Phillip. That'll make an interesting 'post'in its self! I will create that post now as I have some material on it. Thanks!