General Jack Seely remembers David Hookey

In Forever England (1932), General Jack Seely describes getting back to Brook after a busy week in Parliament and going to visit his friend the local blacksmith, David Hookey:

When I get back tired and cold on an autumn or a winter’s evening, it is good to be allowed to go to the forge…those of us who are allowed to gather there mostly sit and watch, trying not to get in the way. Incredibly deft are the strokes of the hammer on the well-nigh molten metal, the result of forty years of experience and generations of inherited skill. So we sit there on a bench facing the glow, with the rain drying off our faces and our clothes, talking in whispers, until David Hookey has finished the job in hand. Then he must have a rest, for it is hard work swinging a great hammer for minutes on end without a moment’s respite. When all is done for the moment, David addresses us, sometimes about the weather, the heavy ground-sea, the absence of shingle on the beach at Brooke and the accumulation of sand at Compton, the difficulty of getting the lifeboat out unless the shore changes for the bett er; but sometimes he sets us extraordinarily interesting puzzles. One delicious question, only the other day: ‘Would this new Tariff policy help what his grandfather and mine called ‘Free Trade’?’ We all understood the question perfectly, including the senior next to me on the bench. David was not being mischievous; his skilful brain, released for five minutes from the strain of making the perfect horse-shoe, was playing round the problem. Nobody said a word in answer to the question, while one could hear the faint crackle of the cooling embers on the hearth of the forge. There was a pause; then, to the huge delight of the rest of us, the coastguard officer loudly cleared his throat and gave a cough. Not a word did we say. Then David remarked: ‘I was reading a book, in which I read that eighty years ago the Isle of Wight produced more than twice as much of everything that was needed for the inhabitants. I remember my grandfather told me the same, but he said wages were low, and, but for one thing, I don’t think folks could have been very happy. Well, I must make the next shoe.’ Then, still blowing up the fire, he put the bar into the red-hot embers and continued to blow. In a pause he said, ‘But my grandfather said folks were not so unhappy as you might think in those days; the smuggling was a real help to all classes.’