Praise heaped upon them – once they were dead

A picture believed to show the Lord Mayor of Portsmouth, Denis Daly, visiting Marchants Hill, 1940

Six evacuees killed as mortar exploded in camp dormitory

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When I am researching these pages and looking back at old newspaper reports, it always amazes me how highly people were regarded.

When they died there was not just a short piece written about them but a full appraisal of their lives and what good deeds they had done.

Take 1924 for instance, and when would a member of the church be written about like this today?

It was reported that the sudden death of the Rev JG James, pastor of the Congregational Church, in Victoria Road, Southsea, ‘occasioned general regret’. It goes on to say he was a man of unbounded energy and with great literary ability.

Apparently he was loved by all who knew him for ‘his genial disposition, his kindness of heart and his embodiment of truly Christian character’. Imagine someone talking about you like that. Wouldn’t you have been chuffed?

Another who died that year causing widespread regret was Charles Matthews JP. He had taken his family to Australia but died just a few days after setting foot in the country. A report says he was a lawyer and ‘thoroughly good citizen of Portsmouth’.

His sympathies with the ‘underdog’ were shown in his advocacy of the claims of the Discharged Prisoners Aid Society and his work for the poor outcasts.

And another item which caught my eye happened in January 1927 when 1,000 Royal Marines who had volunteered for service in China departed from Portsmouth.

A report says the people of Portsmouth gave the men a resounding send-off when they departed on the transport Minnesota.

Imagine being brought up in the side and back streets of Portsmouth and a few years later being off to the other side of the world to a country which must have seemed stranger than fiction at that time.

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