Caught up in heavy traffic (well, heavy-ish) the other day, my mind wandered off (as it seems to do more and more frequently these days) and eventually settled on what I remember as a pink stone clock tower standing beside a main road in Gillingham - the Will Adams memorial.
As a boy, I lived in Gillingham, in a street just off the A2, which was the main road from London to Dover, also known as Watling Street, the old Roman road. The A2 was also the road used by people from London to reach the seaside resorts on the isle of Thanet, principally Margate. There were comparatively few privately owned cars back then, and coach outings to the seaside were very popular in the summer months.
One summer, when I was probably aged about 8 or 9, my father was serving on a ship in Chatham dockyard and would be at home every evening and weekend. On fine Sundays, after tea, he would take my brother and I for a walk along the top road (as we called the A2) just to see the traffic jams as the coaches made their way back from Margate and approached the bottleneck just along the road at Chatham. We would walk along the road as far as the Will Adams memorial before turning back for home.
Although I knew it was the Will Adams memorial, I had no idea who Will Adams was - nor was I at all interested. Since then, however, I have discovered that Will is (or was) Gillingham's most famous son!
Says a lot for Gillingham, doesn't it?
Anyway, according to the Wiki:
"William Adams (24 September 1564 – 16 May 1620), known in Japanese as Anjin Miura (三浦按針: "the pilot of Miura"), was an English navigator who in 1600 was the first of his nation to reach Japan. One of a few survivors of the only Dutch East India Company
ship to reach Japan from a five-ship expedition of 1598, Adams settled
there and became the first ever (and one of the very few) Western Samurai.
"He was the model for the character of John Blackthorne in James Clavell's best-selling novel Shōgun (1975), which was adapted as a 1980 TV mini-series, a 1989 computer game, and 1990 Broadway musical."
It would appear that the good people of Gillingham have taken Will to their hearts as there are now an NHS treatment centre, a school and a pub bearing his name - as well as an annual festival!