And I thought I was pedantic! Get a load of this guy! RESPECT! Accountant Stefan Gatward, who shot to fame for correcting the grammar of a street sign in Royal Tunbridge Wells, has launched a campaign to correct errors in signs across the town.
He has been called a vandal, a graffiti artist and a pedant.
Even his admirers admit he is "a bit of an old codger". But Stefan Gatward – accountant, former private in the Gordon Highlanders and now Anglican day chaplain – remains unrepentant.
Known as The Apostrophe Man of Royal Tunbridge Wells, Mr Gatward shot to fame last week after taking the law (or at least a bylaw) into his own hands by adding a missing apostrophe to the street signs on his road.
St Johns Close became St John's Close and overnight Mr Gatward gained respect and derision in equal measure. While many of his neighbours congratulated him on his stand, the apostrophe was scratched off three days later.
Fearful of an appearance at a magistrate's court – or should that be magistrates' court? – Mr Gatward decided not to paint in the apostrophe again.
However, determined to halt the slide of the Queen's English into what he regards as a babel of Americanisms and street slang, he has instead embarked on a tour of the spa town in order to point out the grammatical howlers which besmirch its street signs.
After all, service in one of Britain's finest regiments and a career balancing books and ledgers have taught him a thing or two about accuracy, order and clarity and it is a lesson he remains determined to share with the rest of us.
"It's the cavalier attitude to language I can't abide," he said as we set off.
Within a half-square mile radius of his home Mr Gatward spotted half a dozen misplaced or missing apostrophes.
Stephen's Road appeared correctly in a pre-Second World War sign while in the modern sign on the opposite side of the street the apostrophe had been omitted to read Stephens Road.
The same mistake had been made in Queen's Road, where the older sign had an apostrophe while the modern one left it out.
Mr Gatward, 62, said: "Some people argue we should do away with apostrophes all together. Well, if that's the case, let's at least be consistent about it.
"But we would then get into all sorts of problems with meaning. How would be distinguish between 'we'd' and 'wed'?"
Worse was to come. A sign for Mr Gatward's own church managed to leave out the apostrophe so that the main heading read 'St Lukes', while in smaller lettering below the church's name was spelt with the apostrophe.
This served to confirm a pet theory of Mr Gatward's that the Catholic Church is rather more rigorous in these matters than the liberal Church of England, given it's adherence to scriptural doctrine rather than individual interpretation.
Moving on, Mr Gatward stumbled on a gem of a mistake. One street sign read 'All Saint's Road', with the apostrophe incorrectly denoting one saint where it should by definition be the plural possessive All Saints' Road.
Barely 200 metres along the road we found another incorrect sign, this time reading 'All Saints Rise leading to All Saints Road', with no apostrophes at all.
"Whoever does this should be flogged," he said, perhaps only half in jest.
But Mr Gatward is far from being the archetypal 'disgusted of Tunbridge Wells'. For all his appearance and demeanour – Royal British Legion tie and badge, blazer, smartly polished shoes – he only moved to the town 18 months ago.
Born in Rotherhithe, south London, his father was a clerk and his mother a shop assistant. Bright enough to gain a scholarship, the young Stefan learnt his proper grammar at Alleyn's School in Dulwich.
From there he joined the Gordon Highlanders, in 1965, before leaving four years later to work as a ship broker and then qualify as an accountant.
In his spare time he officiates at services at Southwark Cathedral as a day chaplain.
"In all my work clarity has been vital," he said. "But a generation of children is growing up using a language that nobody else understands, based on street slang and mobile phone texts."
"Perhaps people think apostrophes are a bit messy. But the apostrophe is there to show possession or a missing letter. While language and words may change with time grammar should be sacrosanct," said Mr Gatward.
Siân Cunningham, a 19-year-old manager of a children's shoe shop on the corner of St John's Road and Queen's Road could not quite see what all the fuss was about.
"I never really notice whether things have got an apostrophe in them or not and I'm not really sure what the rules are about their use," she confessed, conceding that with a Grade B in GCSE English language and literature she ought to know better.
"Society is more relaxed about that kind of thing nowadays."
More relaxed she may be, but Miss Cunningham admitted she insists people place a circumflex over the "a" when writing her first name. Mr Gatward could not hide his delight. Source