Long, long ago when the old German king was on the throne, there was a celebration held in a field at the edge of the village. It was a little haven on the path between Shoreham and the old castle. For many years this area was considered the village green and fairs were held as the Spring season arrived upon the village folks.
On one edge of the field stood a tree. There was talk at the time, that it had been first planted as a Celtic tribe had moved through the valley many years before. Of course, it wasn’t the original one but it was assumed that a tree had stood on that spot for several hundred years.
Only a short distance away, down by the river and near where the old Mill still stands, the Romans had established a small shrine to give thanks to their gods. From the Celts to the Romans it was considered a magic area.
The King was sometimes referred to as the crazy king, or the mad king, yet on that day of the Shoreham Fayre, only glasses of beer were raised to the health of the man, as he was loved by many in that field.
Now the tree which stood in the field would usually beckon several of the folks to tie a piece of cloth to one of the branches, in hope that a wish, or a prayer would be granted.
One little boy, Billy, whose family lived on Church Street, had missed his father since the man had gone off to war. Holding the little boy up, his mother helped Billy tie a section of an old shirt of his father’s to the tree.
Billy’s wish was simple, to bring his father home from the distant wars. Yet the years passed and his father didn’t return – and before long, Billy, himself, was fighting in the Commonwealth of Virginia, against the Americans. For it was Billy who was standing on the hill that night the British set fire to the White House, in Washington.
It was in the year of 1812, that Billy’s father came home to Shoreham, and apart from losing a leg in the fighting, he also left behind much of his life spirit. So much so, that he sadly died before Billy returned from the United States.
Yet the tree had kept its promise – it had been Billy’s fault that he hadn’t been specific enough in his wishes.
Many years later, Billy’s grandson, Hamilton, went off to fight in a war in the southern lands of Africa. Now Hamilton had heard the story about the tree as it had been told throughout the family. So, Hamilton decided to tie a cloth to the tree and wish that he himself should return to Shoreham. It meant that Hamilton felt safe in his sojourns, and yes, I must tell you that he did indeed return home, but in a coffin.
Now we move forward to the 20th century and whether we are still talking about the same tree, is anyone’s guess. It stands in the same place, and so perhaps it is, or perhaps it isn’t. Yet the stories that surrounded it grew by the years, until it got to the stage that the tree became known as the ‘lucky tree’.
In 1966, a young man by the name of Alfred, happened to be walking past the tree and tied a cloth to it – he did so in order to ask for help for his grandfather who was ill in hospital. He asked the lucky tree to allow his grandfather to get better and survive long enough to watch England winning a world football cup. He thought that would keep him alive for a time.
As you can imagine, that year, the grandfather breathed his last breath when the Russian referee blew his whistle to signify that England had beaten West Germany and were world champions.
It was probably with Alfred that the story began to fade. Alfred moved to Australia with the money that his grandfather left him, and folks tied cloths to the tree, less and less.
There was the occasional trip to the tree for one or two individuals. Like the time while designing the M25 motorway, it was thought that an exit should come down the valley and into Shoreham. No one really noticed but a small cloth was tied to a small twig on the tree and the exit was never built.
One Saturday evening, in the current year,a lad of sixteen summers was walking back from Eynsford, when he thought he saw a light underneath the tree (the one which was once known as the lucky tree). The lad found that it was the remnants of a fire – it looked to him as if someone had tried to burn it down, but the lad put out the fire and then sat a while.
Whether he imagined it, or whether he had fallen asleep and had dreamt it – he could see that just a short dig underneath the tree was a collection of Roman coins put there as an offering many years before.
The lad woke in the morning as the sun came up and as he started to dig – sure enough, there were coins exactly where he had dreamt them to be. the lad never had to walk anywhere again.
So, in finishing, and as a warning, if you ever happen to be perambulating that path between Shoreham and the Hop farm, and you approach the tree – just be very careful what you wish for and who knows, there just might be some gold nearby, too.
bobby stevenson 2017
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