Robert West, Gentleman Farmer
There’s been a new addition to my family in recent months. An addition who was born in 1787 and who died in 1852. His name? Robert West.
Anyone who came along to the SCA Comedy School night at Backyard Comedy Club last Sunday was given a somewhat vulgar introduction to Robert West as he made quite a distinctive appearance in my routine.
For those unable to attend, here’s a short back story. One of my dad’s friends who is into ancestry did some digging into our family history and provided us with a family tree of my dad’s side of the family. It mostly made for almost tear-jerkingly boring reading. All that can really be taken away from it was that the West’s love farming, Norfolk and a strong English name. But one name stood out to me, because it was my name. But my name wasn’t attached to me, it was attached to another Robert West. One we didn’t know existed. One who was, apparently, a “Gentleman Farmer.” Have a look for yourself.
This fascinated me. To learn that not only do I have a namesake, but also that my namesake, the man whose name I will carry to my grave, was a Gentleman Farmer. This brought so many questions. Who was he? What was he like? What on earth is a Gentleman Farmer? I must know more. I will know more. I have now embarked on a mission to dig up more about this character. I want photos, I want anecdotes. But, until then, I must create my own story…and my own photos.
Inspired by Mark Denton’s Nobby Bottomshuffle, the fictional, frollicking, footballing ancestor that Mark conjured up and brought to life, I set out to bring my real ancestor to life.
What follows is a series of photos I took, accompanied by a brief narrative, to manifest this wonderful gentleman who is now a part of my life.
Lord of the Manor
Robert West ruled the roost. Every room he walked into became his dominion, such was the air of confidence and charm that he carried. A serious man, but with a dry sense of humour that could easily catch you off guard. Impossible to determine what was sharper, the crack of his whip or his wit… When you enter his manor, you obey his rules, for fear of being on the receiving end of his silver tongue. Handsome, obviously, and sophisticated, he met no trouble in finding a lady to the manor.
Nature at his fingertips
What is a farmer without his fields to roam? A virtuous landowner, Robert West felt most at one when amongst nature. Every day started at dawn with a saunter through fields of barley, beet or wheat, accompanied by his loyal hounds. A meticulous agronomist, he would inspect his crop with such an eye for detail that some said he was obsessed. Nay, just a perfectionist. A gentleman to his folk, and a gentleman to his flora.
Work hard, play harder
A mantra central to a Gentleman Farmer. Of course the yield of your crop is vital, but the other job of such a man is to be seen to be always on the public scene. Robert West brought such energy to a party that he makes Jay Gatsby seem more forgettable than a spud in a sack. A connoisseur of the finer things in life, you would never see his wine glass empty. His was a laugh well-earnt.
Love, love, love
Love what you do, do what you love. Love your people, be loved by them. Love life and life will love you. Love the small things, love the big things. Give love, and receive love. This was the true spirit of Robert West Gentleman Farmer. He loved, he was loved. His legacy is love. A legacy any who bear his name would do well to carry.
There he is. That is Robert West Gentleman Farmer. I am Robert West Gentleman Farmer.
I doff my cap to you Robert, you were one of the good ones.
I carry your name with pride. I wonder how you look at me. I may not be a farmer, but I hope to be a gentleman. I feel your energy within me.
Here’s to us.