The Sally Port
An extract from the Supplement to the Royal Engineer Journal 1906, pg 43
Antiquarians will hear with regret that during last month old Sally Port met her end by misadventure through an overdose of nitro-glycerine.
The old lady was almost the oldest inhabitant and one of the most famous personalities of the ancient Naval port of Chatham. Her origin is not known with certitude; but it is commonly believed that she first saw the light during the last Parliament of George III., so that she had the somewhat unique experience of living during the reigns of five sovereigns; and it is supposed that she was connected with the old order of Practioner Engineers and that her up-raising was entrusted to the ancient Companies of Military Artificers.
She had been ailing for some years, and it was only through the devoted care of Dr. Sentiment, MD, that she survived so long. Latterly, however, her neighbours, and even her relatives the Royal Engineers, a family claiming direct descent from the afore-mentioned Practioners and with a reputation – spurious, perhaps – as manipulators of explosives to the State Militant, had persuaded her to consult the genius of Mr. Progress, FRCS. The latter, at once diagnosing the disease as chronic obstruction, performed two amputations; and these being unavailing as a cure, he prescribed a strong dose of demolition, which, through the irony of fate, was administered by a triennial hireling of the old lady’s own relatives.
After the fatal event it became known that the cause of demise was nothing more than a broken heart. Many a brave phalanx had she seen passing through her gateway and many a brilliant pageant enacted beyond her glacis. Bu these were of the past only; for the rooi-neks, stiffnecked and upright, guilded and beplumed, marching and counter-marching with dignified precision to the blare of bugles and seductive swear-words, had given way to skirmish lines of crawling khakis, whose hurried spasmodic advances, in response to shrilly insisted whistlings and mysterious wavings of arms, seemed governed by only a shamefaced desire to avoid publicity.
Nor was this the only cause of grief. Sally Port, as is well known, was the guardian of the aristocracy of the Row of Mansions from the onslaughts of democracy that for ever threatened to sweep across and absorb the Great Lines, which had for centuries been the mimic battlefield and playground of her children. Mr. Progress, the champion of democracy, had seized upon the ancient Roman road of Watling Street and forthwith mortgaged it to his creature Electricity, who allowed no room or favour to tender-footed constitutionalists or to antiquated lovers of horseflesh. The latter, in self-defence, claimed the enlargement of a right of way through Sally’s long-inviolate demesne. It is said that one can drive a coach-and-four through any regulation. Sally was a regulation herself, if one may judge from the numberless prohibitions against equestrians and velocopedestrians that adorned her entrances. Even she was not proof against the immutable law just quotes; and the rumour that her enemies were to drive two coaches abreast from one boundary of her domain to the other had an effect on her vitality that was patent to all.
Finally, when her dearest friends told her that her relatives aforesaid, having taken advantage of the Admiralty Grabbing Act to sell their birthright, had joined in a conspiracy to bring about her removal from this worlds, she developed a mental affliction which was obviously impossibly to cure.
The obsequies extended over several days, and were attended by the Barrow-Wheelers, the Shovelers, the Pick-a-ninnies, and the great Jerry-Builder-Man with the screw loose on top.