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Dersingham Folk
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Alfred Richard Firth - The Schoolmaster's Son
Elizabeth Fiddick ©
Our request for more information about Alfred Richard Firth bore fruit.
We received much from Charles Firth and share it here with his kind permission.

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In the church at the rear of the side altar at the east end of the south aisle is a memorial window in memory of Alfred Richard Firth the eldest son of Alfred Firth, ”the greatly respected schoolmaster of the village.”  The window is of three lights.  St. Mary is shown in the right hand light kneeling at her prayer desk. On a scroll over her head are the words of her reply to the salutation of the Archangel, “Behold, the hand maid of the Lord, be it unto me according to thy will.” On the left is St. Gabriel the Archangel carrying a banner on which his words are inscribed.  In the centre is a beautiful vase of Madonna Lilies.  Above, a representation of the Holy Spirit is shown running through the heads of the three lights.  Angels appear holding scrolls upon which are written the opening words of The Magnificat   In the base of the lights are shown on shields, “The Tower of David,”  “The Fountain,” and “ The Lily” three emblems associated with the Virgin Mary.  Above, in the tracery, are shown the figures of angels playing musical instruments.  The dedication is in the right hand corner.

To the glory of God and in loving memory of Alfred Richard Firth, one of his Majesty’s Vice-Consuls, who died at Kobe, Japan, on October 12th 1912, aged 36, this window is erected by relatives and friends.

Alfred Richard Firth, or Dick Firth as he was known in the village, was the oldest of three brothers.  He was born in Castle Rising in 1876 just before his father took up the position of schoolmaster in the newly built Dersingham School.  His two brothers, Harry and Fred, were born in the village.  All three boys attended the village school and took a full part in the life of the village.  Harry is recorded as captain of the village cricket team in 1900.
Dick was the first of the brothers to leave the village school to attend the Grammar School of Lynn.  At the end of his studies there, he received the gold medal for academic achievement from King Edward V11. The fact that all three boys achieved this honour must have been a source of pride to their father.  Dick, while still in the sixth form, graduated from London University and then spent some time on the continent to improve his French and German.  In 1898 he passed an examination and was appointed by the Foreign Secretary, Lord Salisbury , as a Student Interpreter in Japan. He spent the next few years in Tokyo and Yokohama passing several exams in Japanese.

At some point he became a member of a football team as we see here in 1902; Dick is far left, centre row. I believe this was taken in Yokohama, Japan.
In 1903 he was in Manila as Acting Consul General.  In 1905 he had leave of absence and returned to England where he enrolled in the Inner Temple completing half the course and exams before returning to his consular duties at Hakodate. He also served in Formosa which is where this photograph was taken. 

Dick wrote many letters home and sent articles to the Parish Magazine.

In 1908 he was appointed British Vice Consul to establish a Vice-Consulate in Osaka.  Here is the original copy of that appointment.

He wrote of experiencing an earthquake during a tutorial, ”everything began to rattle and then the house shook for about one minute like the last carriage of a long train.”  He described the houses where the walls, ”consist chiefly of paper panels stretched on wooden frames.”  His accounts of New Year, his ascent of Mount Fujiyama and travels throughout the area are full of detail and humour.  In a time when international travel was the privilege of the few it must have seemed a fascinating if not exotic life to the villagers back in Norfolk He left the island on his last leave of absence on Christmas Day in 1910.

On arriving home he continued his legal studies and qualified as a Barrister in 1911.  He returned to Kobe as Vice Consul but died there tragically after an operation for appendicitis in 1912.  The news of his untimely death must have been a great shock to everyone. 

Queen Mary hurried over to the village to offer her sympathy to the family.  300 villagers contributed to the cost of the window, which was produced by Messrs. C. E. Kempe of Nottingham Place. Some of the stained glass in Sandringham Church came from the same studio.  The service of dedication was held on Friday July  25th 1913.  The Rev. Lewis of Dersingham and the Rev. Copeman of Ingoldisthorpe officiated.  The Rev.W Boyce, headmaster of Lynn Grammar School unveiled the window and it was then dedicated by The Bishop of Thetford.  The church was full to capacity to hear the Bishop’s address.  He gave a moving account of the life of Alfred Richard Firth and praised his family and the village of Dersingham.  “Where would the leaders of this world be without the villages.  The village boy of today might in the future become one of the world’s leaders.  It was in the village that the foundation of his character was laid.”
Alfred Richard Firth's Ceremonial Sword.