46 / Grandfather Harley
This recollection of my maternal grandfather was contributed by my brother. His memory is sharper than mine:
Grandfather Christopher Harley was a crack shot. He was gamekeeper to King George 5th and lived in a cottage in Virginia Water, Windsor Great Park, where he and his wife Ellen brought up their family. Even when retired his double-barreled shotgun was always lodged on brackets above the mantelpiece.
Our mother’s, and her brother Ralph’s, ashes are scattered around the base of the Copper Horse, which marks the gateway to The Park from Windsor Castle.
Grandfather Harley had a very realistic looking glass eye in his left socket; the end result of an accident in a game of bows and arrows when he was a lad.
He could pop out this glass eye and would do so if he thought his wife was not looking. To see his eye being rolled around in the palm of his hand was an alarming sight and it would make us children scream. Before getting told off by Grandma, he would have it back in place in a trice and would appear blameless as he puffed on his pipe beside the fire.
At the beginning of the First World War he was called to join the Berks & Bucks Infantry Regiment, but was rejected as unfit for service due to his partial blindness.
It is unlikely that a better shot has ever been rejected from a rifle brigade, as the eye he would have closed when taking aim was already blind.
The life expectancy of the men of this Regiment, who ran up the beaches of France, was around ten minutes. Very few of them made it back to base.
I can’t imagine that “turning a blind eye” has ever led to such a fortunate outcome.