Those finds set my memory going. Years ago I used to care for a garden behind some offices; the building had been a private boys’ school until about 1920. From time to time I would find glass marbles or copper halfpennies, sometimes Victorian ones with both lighthouse and sailing ship behind Britannia on the reverse, but the find that stays in the memory was easily overlooked, more prosaic yet more poignant.
When clearing St Tydfil’s churchyard forty years ago I was struck by the number of clay pipe stems in one corner, till Trevor told me that the shop next door had been The Three Salmons pub. Pipes were sold cheaply to patrons, or given away with tobacco, so one that was drawing poorly would be snapped and tossed over the wall.
This one that turned up in the office garden must have had a story to tell, for it bore the legend ‘St Omer’. My predecessor, I guess, would have returned from the Front in 1918 and resumed his gardening work. When his pipe broke, he thought little of it, but took a short walk to The Three Tuns, where a beer would have been most welcome, and a new pipe waiting for him. Did he feel that throwing the French pipe away was another short step away from the trenches?
I trust that caring for growing things helped heal the spirit of that nameless gardener-Tommy.
You can see a Victorian halfpenny here: Australia was using British coins at this time.