There’s a wonderful quirky walk along the Thames from Rotherhithe to Bermondsey, It’ll take you past the Brunel tunnel and museum, the site of the Mayflower start point for voyage to America, all sorts of plaques and memorials.Across the river is the Captain Kidd and the Town of Ramsgate and the Wapping Stairs….in the fog last Sunday you could feel Magwitch mudlarking on the beech below. Then there’s my favourite pub in London – The ANGEL – where you can sit out on a balcony above the the thames slapping the stairs like warm beer in the belly. More surprises – the remains of a medieaval manor house amidst the council flats. There’s a raised area by the river on which sits a statue of DR. ALFRED SALTER looking towards another statue of his daughter and her cat.
You can check out Alfred Salter on wikipedia – suffice to say he was a great man who worked tirelessly for the health of the working class in Bermondsey for long years and was firstly in the ILP then labour MP for the area. There were great outbreaks of childhood contagious diseases in the area – diptheria, whooping cough, polio. Salter had the means to send his own daughter to a school in a safer area but chose not to and tragically his daughter died in a diptheria outbreal age 11. The statue shows Salter in retirement looking with a desperate yearning towards his daughter. You’ have to have a very hard heart not to be moved. On friday someone stole the bronze statue – no doubt now melted down for scrap, I was in the Angel Sunday but did not notice it had gone. Hearing of it yesterday I told Jane on her arrival home. We cursed the thieves like Daily Mail readers – or the oldies we are. But it wasn’t anger at all that predominated but loss. Jane went upstairs. Separately we were picturing the scene in our minds…..and the same thought came to us….what about the daughter now bereft of her father……….what an awful forlorn sight that would be. The tears welled up.
Yes know it’s only a fucking statue. ‘Worse things happen at sea’ as my old granny used to say….save your tears for real people. Mawkish sentimentality maybe. Today I heard that Southwark council have taken the statues of daughter and cat into council care to prevent them being nicked. Good – I don’t think I would like to see her on her own. ‘Evey time I passed that statue I thought of the good he did’ said the council leader. Right. Mourning for an age of good honest municipal socialists from Gerorge Lansbury onwards who strove both practically and politically to improve the quality of life for working class people….I see Salter in that great tradition of Jimmy Maxton and the ILP. Maybe some people will rally around the statue theft. Hope so -I’d like to be part of it. The walk ain’t going to be the same now. Captain Kidd’s for romanticism but basically a selfish bastard. It was probably him wot done it. Salter was from a different tradition altogether. I’ll raise a glass to that one next time I’m in the Angel.