A Poem from the 1881 Diary of


Water Bailiff of Bovey Tracey

Transcribed by Michael Steer (his grandson)

Edwin STEER was born at Bovey Tracey in 1853 and died there in 1927. He was in 1881 a policeman, living in Middlesex. Due to ill health he returned to Bovey where he worked for several years as an earthenware potter, and there in 1887 married Linna SELLER from Tiverton. He was a staunch member of the Liberal Party to the extent that he named one of his sons Ewart (Gladstone's middle name). He was also a devoted Baptist and an avid collector of poetry. He served with the Bovey Tracey Fire Brigade for many years and was consequently awarded a Long Service Medal. A potted biography by John PARNELL and a photograph of Edwin with his wife and seven children appear in Veronica KENNEDY's 'The Bovey Book' (referenced and indexed on the GENUKI Bovey Tracey page). His 1881 diary was for many years in the possession of Victor L. Coombes of Bovey Tracey, a grandson. Diary entries are written in a beautiful copperplate script, and as well as recording several important events that occurred during the year, it is filled with the poems he collected. Among these is the following. Its second verse is a catalogue of the Bovey Tracey and District Liberal leadership of the day. The poem seems to have been written in support of C. Seale-Hayne, candidate for the Totnes electorate who later became Paymaster-General in Gladstone's administration.

Here's Success to English Working Men where ever they may be
Who give their votes to aid Reform, Progress and Liberty.
At Duty Call may one and all join in the Liberal van
And send up those pledges to support Gladstone the Grand Old Man.
The late Premier of England whose mighty mind holds sway
William Ewart Gladstone The Hero Of The Day.
There are many Tory orators who would have you to believe
That for the poor of England they do little else but grieve.
They address you now as Brothers yet a few short months ago
They called the English working man the lowest of the low.
They declared they had not sense enough Electors to become
Therefore withheld from you the vote and you were had as dumb.
Tho' you'd the will you'd not the power to make your voices heard
You could not give a vote to say which party you preferred.
Yet those with less intelligence in fact the Merest Clowns
Could vote with pride for either side if residing in the Towns.
But the Liberal Party true to you have given the new Franchise
So that the hardy sons of toil in Counties have a voice
In saying who shall make the laws that they have to obey
And you should return the Compliment on the Election Day.
Don't be gulled by Tory claptrap which with them is always handy
But be led by the Chamberlain not by sponsors like Lord Randy.
Randy the Tory mountebank to the labourers doth vow
That the Liberals want to gull them with three acres and a cow.
But this is Tory folderoll which I hope you'll all see through
And to the Glorious Liberal Cause as one man you'll see through
And give the votes they've given you the Liberal Flag to Lower
But act like men send them again and they will grant you more.
A few of the new voters who reside in Devonshire
At a place called Bovey Tracey are men we should admire
For they have formed a Liberal Band to help the good work on
And have chosen as their Secretary a Mr. Robinson.
A gentleman of sterling worth whose fault twas said was youth
But that is counterbalanced by Honesty and Truth.
He attacks the Tory orators when they advocate "Fair Trade"
And by very plain statistics disprove the statements made.
And when they say the British Fleet has not strength to hold its way
He shows them if its stronger made who'll have the cost to pay.

But such Tory trash is nonsense when the "Union Jack's" unfurled
The Iron Blade of England did defiance to the World.
There are several other gentlemen imbued with Liberal Fire
A Rev. Gentleman named Pearce & W.B. Daw Esq.
Samuel Moist, John Pascoe, John Morris and George Snell
Edward Jones & Lewis Mountford and they everyone work well
To aid the cause they have at heart and swell the Liberal Roll.
Grant they may see as their reward that Seale Hayne heads the poll.
As a proof of what the Tories are about five years ago
They boycotted the Bovey Band as most of you may know.
These clever man are potters and as Liberals went to play
For their champion Col. Sterling 'stead of Waldron & Kenneway.
And tho' the Tory party won thy full of party spite
Victimised the Bandsmen for doing what was right.
No doubt had Sir John had his way He'd have served them worse than that
Perhaps flogged them with his favourite that brutal thing the cat.
For I believe with voice & vote he upheld those heathen knaves
Who wanted to flog our soldiers like the Yankees flogg their slaves.
But tho' he'd flogg the rank and file he'd grant pensions to the great
In fact make all subservient to his hobby Church and State.
Sir John is not the only one here's another I must name
That is W.J. Harris he would follow the same game.
And more than that he'd have our bread Free Trade he'd destroy
By putting needless Duties on & what the reason why?
Tis not to benefit the poor that's far from his intent.
So he'll never do to vote for you in the House of Parliament.
On the game laws he's a hot one too as no doubt you're aware
He thinks less about the starving poor than a pheasant or a hare.
A labouring man may toil and slave til his cheeks are wan and pale
Yet without the least compunction he'd consign a man to jail
If he but picked a rabbit up that lay dead in his way
And that is English Justice in the nineteenth century.

Then in conclusion let me beg that to Seale Hayne you may be true
Remember that these gentlemen are working hard for you.
Tis for you they're striving for if Liberals get returned
You have other claims and just ones that by them will not be spurned
Don't send a man who'd have your loaf. To the Liberals be sincere
Return Seale Hayne and once again Gladstone will be Premier.