Monday, 24 January 2011

Does anyone in Budleigh Salterton know Beryl & Ian?

This is the dedication printed in a re-edition of King Willow which appeared in the late 1950s - early 1960s.

It seems odd that the first virtual tour of our town that I've seen should have been made by someone from Florida rather than from Cape Cod, given Budleigh Salterton's link with Brewster. But there you are: one of the joys of travelling in cyberspace is the unexpected, where you discover undreamt-of destinations.

A bit like hitch-hiking, of which I did a lot during my student days: Athens, the Orkneys Islands, Stonehenge, Teheran... Such wonderful memories. Sometimes I'm tempted to throw away the bus pass, ditch the car and just stick my thumb out to see what would happen.

Anyway, back to reality - well, the parallel universe anyway - and the search by my literary detective friend Sam Williams from Ocala, Florida, who is still tracing the footsteps of Budleigh Salterton children's author George Mills.

As readers will know, I first became fascinated by Sam's interest - well, an obsession really, like all meaningful interests - when I posted a piece about George at

And now here is Sam on his tour of Budleigh at I need to point out to him that Budleigh Hospital is nowhere near the village of Otterton of course. But he's done a pretty good job of spying on our town thanks to Google Earth.

I should have responded earlier to a request from him regarding the above dedication by George Mills which appeared in a re-edition of the ex-schoolmaster's novel King Willow, originally published in 1938.

The fact that the re-edition of King Willow took place in the late 1950s - early 1960s has inspired Sam with an exciting thought.

"Those years put that publication squarely into GM's time in Budleigh," he writes. "The updated dedication to that edition is to a young newlywed couple 'Beryl & Ian.' This sounds strange, but I've contacted a variety of 'Beryl & Ians' around the internet who were born in the late 1930s and none of the couples knew of a George Mills.

"Is it possible Beryl & Ian are still in Budleigh and their names simply don't appear on-line? Mills's dedication uses "long voyage" and "good ship" to describe their matrimonial bliss--a perfect metaphor from a man and for a young couple who all live by the sea!"

The Catholic church in Budleigh Salterton, in Clinton Terrace

A second interesting thought arising from Sam's quest comes from the fact that George Mills's funeral seems to have been conducted in Budleigh Salterton's Catholic church. Of course! Ladycross, in Seaford, Sussex, was a Catholic prep school. I should have known that, having been brought up as a Catholic myself and knowing at least two people with connections to it, including a former colleague who taught there for a time. Sadly he was there long after George Mills.

So could Budleigh Salterton's Catholic parish priest, 90-year-old Fr George Gerry, provide the answer?

No comments:

Post a Comment