Today seemed like a good day to remember one of our river family, albeit almost 100 years since he died. Alfred Wye grew up in Papercourt Lock Cottage, the son, grandson and nephew of a lock keeper. While I don’t underestimate the culture shock to all teenagers like Alfred ( and grown men for that matter ) arriving in the trenches of France, I can’t help but look at the idyllic place he grew up and try to imagine if somewhere could have been more alien if he’d landed on another planet. Papercourt Lock is quite remote even now, mains electricity only arrived in 2000, and it is likely he’d never strayed very far. Instead of returning to the river to possibly carry on the family tradition, he died and his last resting place is a military cemetery in northern France. He was 19 years old.
We planted a red oak tree in his memory today, opposite his old family home with the help of members of the Wye family of the 2 and 4 legged variety. We like to think that everyone who works, or worked, on the river are members of a family too, so that makes Alfred one of us. While it is lovely that he is remembered on the village war memorial in Send, it is important that he is remembered by us too and his tree will hopefully bring happiness to generations of people and in time a home to generations of wonderful creatures.