Coincidences happen, that is the nature of things in life, but nevertheless there are times when the nature of certain events leave you feeling very strange. As was the case yesterday when the circumstance of an incident seemed so out of context to every other aspect of the environment I was in and the event itself seemed strangely unreal and out-of-place. This is not to suggest in any way some supernatural, occurrence even if my day started in a graveyard and finished with an awful accident that resulted in injury or perhaps even death for the victims involved.
My day began with a trip to Harrow Public School or more specifically to St Mary’s Church that serves as the school’s place of worship and boasts an impressive list of past parishioners and alumni including the likes of Alfred Lord Tennyson and Sir Winston Churchill. But I was there to research the far less celebrated illegitimate daughter of Lord Byron,Clara Allegra Byron whose short tragic life is remembered only by a small stone plaque on the right hand side of the doorway of St Mary’s Church. It is well documented that Claire Clairmont, Allegra’s penniless mother sent her daughter to Byron with the hope that she would be guaranteed a better future, but within months Byron placed her in the care. Byron once wrote his displeasure of the child saying “She was as obstinate as a mule and ravenous as a vulture” words that haunted Byron for the rest of his life after she died of a convulsive catarrhal attack which today would be described as Typhus or Malaria at the age of five. There are many stories surrounding the plaque but most are of the opinion, Byron had it placed there out of guilt rather than love, ironic for a man remembered as a romantic.
Harrow School is situated in the village of Harrow-on-the-hill about a mile from the main town and is reached by a steep leafy country lane lined on one side by houses and the other by the fence protecting a small wood . Yesterday I had forgotten that being half term the school and most of the shops that serve the school were closed as almost the whole population were enjoy the autumn break and the place was like a ghost town. So after visiting the graveyard I decided to make my way back to town. I have visited Harrow school on several occasions but never before noticed the sign at the top of Grove Hill with the odd and ominous warning to take heed, warning that Grove Hill was the site of the first fatality by road accident ever recorded in Great Britain in 1899. No sooner had I taken a photograph of the sign then the silence of the village was broken by the sound of the sirens of a half-dozen emergency vehicles heading a speed down the hill towards (what I thought) was a major incident down in the town of Harrow. Only when I turned the corner did I realize that the drama had taken place not more the a hundred yards from where I stood reading the sign and must have happened within minuets of me arriving there.
Now this is the strange thing, Harrow-on-the-hill is never a busy place even when the school is in full occupation, this was a time when hardy anyone was about, this was not some notorious motorway black-spot for accidents but a quite leafy country lane and the weather conditions were unseasonably bright and sunny and yet a major accident had happened and seemed to involve only one vehicle, the car which had ended up on its side. There was no signs or marks on the road nor any broken glass or damage to parked cars at the side of the road. As I walk by the scene it seemed more like a training exercise with none of the usual tension you find at major incidents like this and even more strange another two police vans came tearing up the lane to join the three already there along with two fire engines and three ambulances.
Walking back to the station the first road you come to at the bottom of the hill is a very busy dual carriageway, a far more likely a venue to see accidents of this nature and it occurred to me that this was in all probability only the second major accident to happen on Grove Hill since the first in 1899 and that it should happen at the very least likely time made it all the more strange.Coincidence is indeed a very strange thing.
Words/pictures David Coomber