Famous people from Swindon Number 3: Alfred Williams

Two other contenders could be Diana Dors (nee Fluck ) and Desmond 'Human Zoo' Morris. This letter, from a perhaps less famous Swindonian (though he actually came from South Marston) was rescued from a junk stall on the Portobello Road a few years ago. It was written by Alfred Williams (1877 – 1930), sometimes known as the ‘Hammerman Poet ‘, because for 23 years he worked for the GWR, latterly  operating  a steam hammer—a task that severely damaged his health.

Williams, who published several volumes of decent verse and topographical writing as well as the much admired Life in a Railway Factory, belongs to that small category of writers (most of them poets) who held boring and/or physically taxing jobs while creating reputations for themselves in the literary world. The best known was probably John Clare, but a more recent example is the celebrated poet Peter Reading, who had the thankless task of operating a weighbridge. After many years of doing this he famously refused point blank to wear a uniform when it was imposed on him and instead resigned, whereupon his admirers in the literary world came to his rescue with offers of more congenial literary work.

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