The Drummer Boy
The statue of the Drummer Boy which used to stand in front of the Council offices on the Melton Hill is due to be installed on the Market Hill below the Shire Hall. The statue is of the heroes of a Kipling story, ‘The Drums of the Fore and Aft’, Jack and Lew, a pair of ne’er do well drinking, smoking fourteen year old orphans who join the band of a rather unsteady regiment, nicknamed ‘Fore and Aft’, when the soldiers are sent to a frontier battle in Afghanistan. These two orphans find themselves left alone in ‘no man’s land’ when the regiment breaks up under a fierce Ghazi attack but they manage to rally the troops by continuing to play a march (rather badly) on their own before they are killed.
This story is certainly not politically correct by modern standards yet like much of Kipling’s work, it is amazingly perceptive. One point made in the story is that the regiment ‘Fore and Aft’ becomes unsteady in challenging circumstances because the troops are all ‘four year men’, i.e. relatively inexperienced, without any older troops to provide advice and examples of how to behave when the going gets tough.
We all benefit from such examples, and though you could say that St. Mary’s congregation is not lacking in seasoned troops, we will only benefit if we listen to and adhere to their example and advice. Evelyn Underhill said that there was ‘nothing so lovely as Christian Old Age’ where the fruits of a life lived tuned to the love of God and to the love of one’s neighbour can be enjoyed by all.
At the other end of the scale, The Drums of the Fore and Aft’ has a subtitle ‘and a little child shall lead them’ (Isiah 11:16) which brings to mind the members of Junior Church explaining what they have been doing that morning at the end of the 10 O’clock service. At the very least they often bring about a change in atmosphere, at their very best they make quite succinct remarks which show they have really understood the readings of the day at least as much as the rest of us.
A little child can lead in other ways too, I recently went across to Peterborough to see my newly arrived grandson and found myself babbling nonsense to him. There was a moment when I realised that he was quietly giving me his full attention by just looking and listening. I ceased babbling and was able to join his peaceful state.
If the statue can remind us to be open to the examples of those around us, it deserves its place on the Market Hill.
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