Almost everyone affiliated with Norwich knows at least the first verse to the song “Norwich Forever,” and a good many know that the lyrics, sung to the tune of “True Blue,” were penned by Professor Arthur Wallace “Pop” Peach. But until now, only a handful of people knew the true story behind how that song came to be written. In 1928, Pop Peach addressed this very topic in a letter to The Record. Excerpts from his letter describe events which took place in the fall of 1915.
“I happened to be in the office in Old Dewey Hall, busy with some papers, while Heber [Shaw, NU 1916] and his orchestra were practicing in the Chapel. His flute-playing was a delight, so I opened the door slightly in order to follow the music a bit more effectively.
“When the music stopped, Heber came in. He asked me if I would not write some words to go with the tune—something that the fellows might sing, the next day, at the annual football battle with [the University of] Vermont.
“I asked him to play the tune a few times until I could get the swing of it. He and his orchestra played it over, and I scribbled off the first and last verses.
“I turned them over to Heber and he did the rest. The next day, at the Vermont game, the whole corps seemed to know the song, and it swept over the field, sung as only a Norwich ‘gang’ can sing when they mean business.
“I always associate “Norwich Forever’ with Shaw, for, as I have said, he suggested that the words be written; and because I knew him to be fine, square, and dependable, and hence liked him, I was glad to try to do ‘my bit.’ So Norwich really owes the song to him.”
Shaw graduated the following spring and took a job as a designing engineer with Westinghouse Electric in Pittsburgh, where he continued to play the flute with various musical groups. In 1923, while still a young man, he died of complications from influenza, leaving behind a wife and child.
Queen of the hills,
When far from thee,
Still mem-o-ry thrills
Recalling scenes and old friendships,
Songs and old cheers,
Mem’ries that fade not
Through the changing years.
Through rain and shine
Sunset and dawning
Still we are thine,
And in defeat or in victory,
We shall acclaim
Thy dauntless spirit and
Thy deathless name.
Hail, hail to thee,
Bright is thy glory
Won in the long years,
And we pledge thee our future,
Thee to adore,
Till in the skies the stars
Shall burn no more!
Inspired by a college football game he had witnessed in his youth, Peach was also responsible for writing the words to the “Norwich Hymn.”
“I remember from my own far off “prep” school days watching a famous university team go down to defeat—and then, as the game closed and the crowd streamed out, I saw the student-body rise as one man; and over the field through the swiftly gathering dusk swept the superb song, slow-moving, majestic, that the university sings at the close of football games, banquets, and similar occasions. It was a never-to-be-forgotten moment.”
In writing the song, Peach says he was thinking about how “our own student-body [supports] its teams, win or lose.” He imagined that the words might be used “on the Hill, at alumni gatherings, wherever Norwich men gather in the name of their college and their memories.” He explains that each stanza is intended to suggest “a loyalty that abides, near or far, no matter how many years of change may lie between graduation and later meeting of classmates and college friends.”
Peach recruited Cadet John Twombly, NU 1924, to compose the music, saying that the resulting melody was “exactly what I had in mind—a tune with long, full cadences, deep-voiced in the natural range of men’s voices, simply harmonized, without frills of any sort.”
We hail thee Alma Mater, fair
Beneath thy northern sky,
And sing thy praise as have thy sons
Thro’ all the years gone by.
We shall keep bright, tho’ far we roam
On life’s unchartered ways,
The mem-o-ry of comrades old
And good old Norwich days.
And in defeat, or vic-to-ry,
Our pledge we shall renew,
To steadfast stand, thro’ weal* or woe,
For love of old N.U!
* well-being, prosperity, or happiness
By Diana L. Weggler