My song today is ‘Cherish’. This song was written by Terry Kirkman and was released in 1966. The song reached Number 1 on the U.S. ‘Billboard Hot 100’ in September of that year and remained in the top position for three weeks. Billboard ranked the record as the Number 7 song of 1966. The song also reached the Number 1 spot In Canada.
When this song was first released, I was a 24-year-old man who had returned from Canada, having spent a few years there travelling and shaking the wanderlust off my boots. Having spent the last five years of my teenage years in the romantic mode of ‘loving and leaving them’ I would spend the last five years of my twenties being at last ready to settle down to a steady life of marriage and domesticity.
Before my marriage at the age of 26 years though, I was preoccupied with advancing myself in the only profession and trade I had learned and known to a ‘t’; that of textiles. Being well experienced and wholly acquainted in all processes of textiles since the age of 15 years, I had advance my career from textile labourer, to textile working foreman, to textile salaried foreman, to textile under manager on nights by my 25th birthday. I also had it on the sound understanding that if I did well in my textile position as textile under manager on nights that the mill manager’s post on days could also be mine before my 30th birthday.
When the boat was steering itself nicely through the calm waters, what did I decide to do to cherish and protect my position in textiles which was earning me more than double the national average wage for men? I deliberately capsized it and gave up my enviable well-paid employment and returned to a modest textile position in another mill on days. Why you might ask? The answer was to return to night school to complete the education I had run away from at the age of 15 years.
I had decided to become a History teacher and that required gaining a degree in History through University. University entrance required obtaining the requisite number of GCE qualifications at ‘O-level’ and ‘A-level’ grades, and in order to free me in the evenings to attend night school classes for three years, I needed to work days and be free from 6-00 pm onwards.
As it turned out, after having been accepted into Bath University to read History, one month before I was due to attend, I was accepted for Probation Officer training at Newcastle. I had previously applied to be a Probation Officer but had later learned that I was too young and being unmarried I was not considered as being quite ready. I jumped at the opportunity of being trained to become a Probation Officer, and I kept history as a favourite reading topic of mine thereafter.
As a young person, I had frequently found myself on the wrong side of the law. Until my 14th year of life, I was ‘light-fingered’ as we say in Yorkshire and would steal anything which wasn’t nailed down.
In my later years, as I was advancing in my textile career, I reminded myself of an unkept promise I had made to my Maker as an 11-year-old boy who was dying with multiple injuries in Batley hospital, having been run over by a wagon. My intensive life-threatening injuries had left me with a damaged spine and I heard the doctors tell my parents from my semi-conscious state at the time that I would be dead by the morning, and if by any miracle I wasn’t, I would never walk again. I asked God to spare my life and pledged that I would devote the remainder of it to doing good deeds. God kept his part of the bargain, and after I eventually recovered, for a long time, I forgot my promise in return.
Then in my 25th year of life, I read the book ‘Les Misérables’ by Victor Hugo, and the main character in it, Jean Valjean, reminded me of an earlier version of my dishonest self who had been given a chance by a very good greengrocer called Mr. Northtrop, whose shop I had stolen from at the age of 15 years. Instead of informing my parents of my theft, Mr. Northrop offered me a Saturday morning job in his greengrocer shop, and he trusted me with access to his shop cash register whenever I served customers.
The parallel, between how the priest in Victor Hugo’s novel gave Jean Valjean a second chance after he had repaid his guest’s generosity by stealing his silverware from him in the dead of night, and how the kindly Mr. Northtrop had given me a second chance also, was too striking a resemblance for me to ignore. Just as Jean Valjean found his redemption through living an honest and honourable life, thereafter, so did I. My redemption was made possible by my vocation as a Probation Officer until I retired, along with any good work I accomplished in that employment by giving less fortunate others the opportunity of a ‘second chance’ also.
Today’s song contains the memorable line, ‘Cherish the love we have. We should cherish the life we live. Cherish the love, cherish the life, cherish the love.” Thanks to that wonderful novel, by Victor Hugo and that wonderful greengrocer called Mr. Northtrop who gave me a ‘second chance’ when I needed it most, I ended up many years later, having started to redeem my promise to my Maker that I made in childhood, and in doing so, I was seated at the right side of the Probation Officer’s desk.
Love and peace Bill xxx