Saturday (5 September) is Gloucester Day. This commemorates the auspicious date in 1643 when the Siege of Gloucester came to an end after the city had stood alone holding out against overwhelming Royalist forces. Led by Colonel Edward Massie, who was only 23 at the time, this was quite an achievement and a major part of the city’s history of which we, it’s residents, should be rightly proud.
The siege cost Gloucester dearly: the suburbs outside the city walls were destroyed , amounting to 1 church and 241 houses valued in 1646 at £28,720, but it was claimed that just 30-40 people died, most of them shot whilst ‘peeping at the enemy.’ After the siege the South Gate was rebuilt with the inscription ‘A City Assaulted by Man but Save by God’ on one side and ‘Ever Remember the Fifth of September 1643, Give God the Glory’ on the other side.
Not being a religious man I think they give God too much credit: the City was saved by courageous men and women who were proud of their city and willing to fight and give their lives for it. ‘Ever remember the fifth of September’ lasted until the restoration, with the date celebrated as a national holiday known as Gloucester Day, but then it died out.
I confess that until I did the research for my book The Story of Gloucester I knew nothing about the Siege of Gloucester, much less Gloucester day, and that is a crime. This stuff should be taught in schools to bring history to life and to generate civic pride. Writing back in 2006 I suggested that the celebration should be revived, and finally, this year it is being!
Now I don’t expect miracles from this: one day of celebrating a long ancient triumph is not going to magically generate civic pride overnight, but it has to be a start. And boy do we need some civic pride! Reading letters and on-line comments in the citizen makes my blood boil. The Quays, for instance, could be seen by less cynical people as a boon to the city, but oh no, Gloucester people much prefer to snipe and whinge. When the Citizen reported that there would be a parade to mark Gloucester Day and a flag would be made to especially for it (http://www.thisisgloucestershire.co.uk/news/Waving-flag-pride-Gloucester/article-1274781-detail/article.html) was there an outcry of pride and celebration? No. There were two comments , one snidely commenting on the shortage of people proud of Gloucester, the other from a miserable, sour-faced misanthrope describing it as a ‘nonsense day’.
I’m not suggesting that we Gloucesterian’s should get together to overthrow the Queen, but it would be nice if we could have a little more pride and a little less cynicism. I sometimes get the feeling that if the Civil war was to be repeated today I would be the only one inside the city walls, with all the rest of the residents on the outside lobbing cannon balls in.
I hope Gloucester people prove the snipers wrong and throng the streets on Saturday, and then perhaps we could bring back another tradition: the stocks where we could pelt the moaners and cynics with rotten fruit.