Arthur Harcourt 1907-2005
The following obituary appeared in the January 2006 issue of Meldreth Matters.
Arthur James Harcourt was born in Dorset on 7th December 1907.
He took up his post as headteacher at Bassingbourn School in 1942, remaining in post there until he retired in 1969. He served the community for many years as a Parish Councillor, and played a prominent role as organist and lay preacher at what was then the Congregational Church. He was very involved with the Workers Educational Association and providing the beginnings of a library for the villagers.
He was a keen poet and musician, encouraging pupils and friends to enjoy and participate in the arts. For many years he conducted the Bassingbourn Village Choir, and also the Melbourn Singers, giving frequent concerts that often contained his own compositions. He also co-ordinated choirs throughout the county for an annual joint concert with Sir David Willcocks.
Arthur was a poet all his life. “Icicles”, the poem printed below, was published in 1958, one of several to appear in print over the years. Almost 50 years later, he had a poem published in America following the terrorist attack on the twin towers in New York. He also continued composing music until quite recently.
With his late wife Joan, he moved to Meldreth in 1967, just before his retirement. They enjoyed following their varied interests, and making many new friends in the village.
Following Joan’s death in 1989, Arthur showed great determination and independence – managing to combine his many interests with newly acquired skills such as jam and cake making. He became a regular worshipper at Holy Trinity Church. He was encouraged and supported by his family, and also by many valued friends in the village.
His resilience, and this love and support meant that he was able to stay in the home he loved until very recently. Following a fall, however, he was admitted to Addenbrooke’s Hospital where he died peacefully shortly after his 98th birthday.
Arthur leaves four children, eleven grandchildren and ten great grandchildren.
Icicles by Arthur Harcourt
Winter-grown in ten days of snow and frost
Long icicles hang from a tin roof
One to each corrugation. In shade, aloof,
Fed by each day’s sun from the white mossed
Surface where they root, they mock the lost
Days of summer with a chilling proof
That processes of growth run backwards. Woof
Of wind wound round them silvers these uncrossed
Spires pointing downward from a heaven of cold
To frozen earth, and binds each molecule
In gleaming texture that will grow and hold
These invert images of icy fear
Till rigid silence, broken by no tear
Acknowledge griping death’s supreme misrule .