Thomas Hardy once observed that: “…here in Dorset, there are so many poets.” Many of them, however, more deserving of recognition have drifted into the shadows created by the spotlight being on the likes of Barnes and Hardy.
Albert Charles Bailey was born at Osmington in 1859. He was the son of Thomas and Angelina Bailey, being one of eight children. The family was poor and Albert had to teach himself to read and write; growing-up he studied the works of all the literary giants of the time. His first book of poems was published in 1896 and sold very well.
The Bailey family moved from Osmington to Sutton Poyntz. Albert married Mary Cox of Puncknowle in 1886 and we learn from the 1891 census that the couple lived at Prospect Cottage, Preston, with their four children and one of Albert’s sisters, Evangelina. The census describes Albert as a Poulterer, Egg Dealer and Market Gardener.
Ten years on the family had grown: Albert and Mary then had four sons and three daughters and the census return suggests that his literary work was being recognised: he is described in the 1901 census as an Author and Market Gardener. However, in 1911 he is again described simply as a Market Gardener but we should not conclude he had abandoned his literary career.
In 1911 he became known as ‘The Ploughman Poet’ following a chance meeting with a special correspondent from a national daily newspaper who was on his way to Dorchester. The journalist was so impressed with Albert’s work that when he arrived in Dorchester he sought out Thomas Hardy to ask if he knew him. Hardy replied “Yes, I have met him,” and added that had Albert Bailey been born in any county other than Dorset, he would have been acclaimed a prodigy.
Albert died in 1914 at the age of 55.