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U3A Writing: The Soldier

John Ricketts is a pallbearer at the funeral of an old soldier who fought in the Boar war.

Peter Sutcliffe and I were honoured to be asked to be pall bearers to Jim Lloyd’s father. We shared that honour with Jim himself and with the local police chief. We carried the coffin which was covered with the Union flag. There was also an impressive row of medals from both the Boar War and the First World War. As we lowered the coffin into the grave a detachment of police fired a volley of shots.

Jim was the caretaker of QueQue Junior and Infants school where Pete and I were teaching. About a year before the funeral his father had turned up out of the blue and moved in with Jim and Elsie. It seemed that Jim had rather come down in the world as his father introduced himself as Major the honourable James Mostyn Lloyd, the younger son of a member of the House of Lords.

When I knew him he was old and frail and going blind, but he could tell stories. He told us that he had run away from home at fifteen and worked his passage over the Atlantic to New York. Now this was in the late eighties of the last century. He said he knew Jack Johnson, the heavyweight champion and was friends with his son. He went west and worked as a cowboy. His parents were worried about him and hired the Pilkington Detective Agency to track him down and bring him back home. He was put in the army and, a young lieutenant, was present when Hiram Maxim demonstrated the machine gun to the top brass of the British Army.

When the Boar War started he was sent to South Africa and never returned to Britain. He seems to have had an uneventful war but towards the end was sent to Jo’burg where he was responsible for law and order. He talked of Rhodes, Jameson, Banarto and the rest as colleagues rather than acquaintances, and it seemed that he made a lot of money from his contacts.

When the First World War broke out he was with Smuts and Selous on their East African Campaign. After the war he seems to have used his considerable fortune to travel the world. Somewhere along the way he married and Jim was born.

It was not until well into his eighties and half blind that he decided that it was time for him to settle down and that was when he turned up on Jim’s doorstep.

After the funeral Jim suddenly found that he was a rich man with more money than he knew what to do with. He drank too much and his wife left him, and Pete and I were asked to witness his will in which he left all his money to the dog’s home.

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