The Life of Simon Evans (1895 - 1940)
Simon Evans was born on 10 August 1895 at Tynyfedu, in mid-Wales, not far from Lake Vyrwny, a reservoir supplying water to Liverpool. His family were all farmers, but the farming life in mid-Wales is a hard life, and the small farm was unable to support a growing number of sons. Simon's father, Ellis Evans, therefore decided to seek work on Merseyside, and left Wales with his family in about 1907.
Simon did not thrive at school, but did have an interest in reading awakened and fostered by one of his teachers. He left school at the age of 14 and started work with the General Post Office. Throughout his life, apart from his Army service, he never worked for any employer other than the GPO.
On the outbreak of war, he signed up with the 16th Cheshires, and spent much of the next five years fighting in the trenches, a searing experience which left him both physically and mentally scarred. He was wounded and invalided back to England at least once, and finally wounded again and gassed in the summer of 1918.
Following an operation on his wounded legs, he recovered sufficiently to return to work with the GPO on Merseyside, but was unable to settle down to the urban life. He never overcame completely the gas damage to his lungs, and needed treatment from time to time. On one occasion, he spent six months in a convalescent home on the south coast, and was advised to follow this with a walking holiday before taking up his postal round again. Chance brought him to Cleobury Mortimer, where he found a postman who wanted to exchange his rural round for an urban one, and Simon Evans managed to engineer this exchange, and thus ended up as one of Cleobury Mortimer's walking postmen.
This new life suited him perfectly. He took lodgings in the town with Mr & Mrs Brighton at 34 Lower Street, and soon immersed himself in the town's social life, joining the Bowling Club, and becoming a regular in the town's public houses.
His daily postal round took him out of the town northwards towards Stottesdon, through some of the delightful farming country which still surrounds Cleobury Mortimer. Walking along the Rea valley, day in, day out, winter and summer, he developed a great love for the area. The GPO provided him with a shelter hut in which to rest during the middle of the day, and this he regarded as his personal property, adapting it to serve as a study, a refuge, and even as overnight accommodation on occasion.
In 1928, he was sponsored by the Union of Post Office Workers as a student on a correspondence course at Ruskin College, Oxford. This proved a turning point, as it opened the door to literature and writing, and led to his becoming a published writer. Success as a writer of short contributions to newspapers and magazines brought him to the attention of the BBC, and he became a regular contributor to (live) programmes on the Midland Service.
By 1931, a publisher had agreed to publish 'Round About The Crooked Steeple', a collection of articles by Simon Evans, most of which had already appeared in periodicals or been broadcast on the BBC. Over the next few years, three further collections and one novel appeared, and Evans became well known regionally, if not nationally. His published work shows a crafts-manship and a love of rural England which combine to give the reader a tempting flavour of the Shropshire countryside in which Simon Evans spent his most enjoyable years.
Thus his work for the BBC brought him unforeseen success as a writer and, more than that, brought him a wife. He met the beautiful 'Aunty Doris', a young singer and performer on children's programmes on the BBC, and they were married in 1938. They settled in Cleobury, and had a house built for them up Ron Hill, which would at that time have provided splendid views over the Rea valley, to which Evans was so devoted. Sadly, before they had been married for two years, the lung problems which had dogged Simon since the war became so severe he was sent to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Birmingham, and there he died on 9 August 1940, a day short of his forty-fifth birthday.
He and Doris had no children, so they have left no descendants in the town. Doris moved away, and developed her singing and acting career, but never remarried. After Simon's father's death, his mother, sister and two brothers had moved to Cleobury, but none of the family now survive in the area. Simon is therefore remembered in Cleobury in other ways: numerous periodical articles, five books, and a street named after him - Simon Evans Close - and now a wonderful walk through the Shropshire countryside, little changed since the 1930s. The spot at which he began his rounds, the old Post Office in Lower Street, now bears a pictorial plaque, designed by a local artist, John Tuck, and installed by the Cleobury Mortimer Footpath Association in 2003.
We would like to thank Mark Baldwin for providing us with this biography and the photographs.
In 1992 Mark Baldwin and BBC broadcaster Chris Eldon Lee produced a series of radio programmes. about the life of Simon Evans for BBC Radio Shropshire entitled “A Letter from the Postman”. These are available now on this website for listening to directly or by downloading to a CD or a MP3 device.
Just click on one of the 3 icons below. Courtesy of BBC Radio Shropshire.
Part 1 - 26 mins 12.2 Mb
Part 2 - 38 mins 17.4 Mb
Part 3 - 36 mins 16.4 M