Sunday, 25 May 2014

‘Local Voices’ in June

Three Friends of the Museum are involved in a project which will see a Salterton Playhouse production on Friday 13 June.

The project is sponsored by the Otter Valley Association with the aim of encouraging writing and the pleasure of reading — both poetry and prose fiction — inspired by our local Devon landscape and natural heritage.

Friends of Fairlynch Sue Chapman, Katherine McDermott-Darley and Nicola Daniels have been working in the ‘Local Voices’  group which includes Wendy Spicer and Maggie Giraud.   Their writing has been inspired  by the broad theme of the Phoenix Myth: regeneration, rebirth, hope and growth.  “It’s a very broad and surprising  spectrum of ideas,” says Sue.  A successful creative workshop collaboration with Clinton Devon Estates, and the East Devon Pebblebed Heaths Conservation Trust took place earlier this year around themes associated with the ‘Phoenix Cycle’ and local photographer Mo Bowman’s stunning images. A second Writers’ Workshop took place on Saturday 5 April.   Dovetailing into this creative programme for 2014, ‘Local Voices’ has reached out to individuals in the community who have contributed their writing for an event taking place at the Budleigh Salterton Playhouse on Friday 13 June,  from 7.00 to 9.00 pm.  Sue’s fellow-organiser Katherine  explained:

“This event will be an evening of readings, wine and socialising, featuring writing linked to the local environment across an open theme  —  ‘The local natural environment explored and celebrated.’ We’re hoping to encourage and present a variety of writing which explores and celebrates what we have around us, and in a way which opens up the imagination and is experimental with language and metaphor.” Tickets at £3 on the door include a glass of wine and canap├ęs.

Writing is most definitely a craft, and several books by or devoted to local writers are on sale in Fairlynch Museum shop alongside works of art and products from the area. Maybe the shop bookshelves will be a bit fuller with poetry and prose inspired by the area and what ‘Local Voices’ is doing to promote it.

Pictured above: The Phoenix reborn, one of the mythological creatures featured in the  Kinderbuch by the German publisher Friedrich Justin Bertuch (1747-1822)

Thursday, 22 May 2014

Secret Gardens of Topsham 8 June 2014

Good luck to our friends at Topsham Museum with their 2014 'Secret Gardens' event

Monday, 12 May 2014

Shakespeare in Salterton

A Budleigh garden owned by an amateur dramatics enthusiast, a troupe of well known local actors, and a much-loved Shakespeare play.  What more would you want for a Saturday summer evening’s entertainment?

Well, a bit of dry weather of course! That arrived just in time after a day of driving rain.  
West Country theatre group Prior Commitment staged an outdoor performance of the popular comedy Twelfth Night in the garden of Cramalt Lodge, home of Fairlynch Museum President Joy Gawne.  

Directed by Steve Andrews, the production featured well-known local actors including Mike Terry and James Cotter, pictured above, as well as performers from further afield.
Joy Gawne, a co-founder of the Museum and known for her love of theatre, was delighted that the garden was being used as a backdrop. “We used to have dressing-up entertainments at WI summer meetings, but this is the first time that Cramalt Lodge has been used for Shakespeare,” she told me.
Some Budleigh theatre-goers may remember her performances from the past, notably a production based on scenes from Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland and Alice Through the Looking Glass. The show was staged in the Public Hall in January 1957, with music specially written and arranged by no less a person than the late Sir Richard Rodney Bennett’s mother, a former pupil of the composer Gustav Holst. Budleigh author and artist Joyce Dennys and Joy Gawne played respectively the White Queen and the Red Queen in a partnership which delighted audiences.
Joy would welcome future Shakespeare productions at Cramalt Lodge. There is a balcony, she says, so why not Romeo and Juliet?

For further performances of ‘Twelth Night’ see the above poster.

Thursday, 1 May 2014

Topsham’s Secret Gardens on Sunday 8 June 2014

Even in the pouring rain the gardens of Topsham looked beautiful when I visited them during the 2012 'Secret Gardens' event. On Sunday 8 June, Friend of Fairlynch Margaret Wilson, who was heavily involved on that previous occasion two years ago, will no doubt be praying for sunshine. But I wonder whether I’ll take photos as good as the ones you can see at

Whether you like gardens or not, the event is enjoyable for all. “What could be more intriguing than exploring the hidden corners of an ancient port, with streets and dwellings going back 400 years?” ask the organisers.  “Well, looking behind those walls and gates at the secret gardens concealed in many an unlikely corner will certainly satisfy your curiosity.”

Sunday 8 June is when the owners of some of Topsham’s private gardens will be inviting you to see their treasures – if you can find them!

This bi-annual event has proved a big hit with locals and visitors alike, especially with the added attraction of cream teas at Topsham Museum, on the Strand, and in Victoria Road, to ease your path around the town.  This year there are new and previously undiscovered gardens taking part, and so even if you took part two years ago in the last event, there are new gems to uncover – and you can enhance your day even further by visiting the plant stall, where lots of bargains can be found, including selections from some of the Secret Gardens themselves.

Tickets will be available from the Museum, and from other outlets in the town and online via the Museum  e-shop from the beginning of May.  Entry costs £5 beforehand or £6 on the day.

Fairlynch AGM on 19 May 2014

Fairlynch Museum and Arts Centre will hold its Annual General Meeting on Monday 19 May at 7.00 pm in the Peter Hall, Budleigh Salterton.

This is an occasion to hear Trustees describe recent achievements and developments at the Museum.  

All are welcome but only Friends of Fairlynch can vote on issues relating to the constitution. Refreshments will be served.  

Remembering Max Perutz (1914-2002)

Max Perutz dancing with his wife Gisela at the 1962 Nobel ball

Image credit: Wikipedia

Not too many Fellows of the Royal Society or Nobel prizewinners have been drawn to Budleigh Salterton’s delights. So I was excited a few years ago to discover a genuine Budleigh scientist who’d remained faithful to the town of his birth and in 1862 settled here in retirement after an adventurous life on the other side of the world.  Henry John Carter FRS was deservedly honoured with a rare blue plaque on the wall of his house off Fore Street Hill.

Max Perutz was not a Budleigh resident. But he certainly helped to give the place distinction, and for that reason among many others I will be toasting his health on 19 May. It’s 100 years since his birth, recognised this year by Royal Mail which has honoured him with a stamp as part of the ‘Remarkable Lives’ series.  

Max Ferdinand Perutz, OM, CH, CBE, FRS, was an Austrian-born British molecular biologist, who shared the 1962 Nobel Prize for Chemistry with John Kendrew for their studies of the structures of haemoglobin and globular proteins. He went on to win the Royal Medal of the Royal Society in 1971 and the Copley Medal in 1979. At Cambridge he founded the Medical Research Council Laboratory of Molecular Biology, 14 of whose scientists have won Nobel Prizes.  He was its Chairman from 1962 to 1979.  

Perutz’s  scientific career in Britain had begun 40 or so years before that date when he arrived as a student in Cambridge to work at the Cavendish Laboratory.  Born in Vienna, he had studied chemistry at the city’s University and had come to Britain in 1936, keen to work in the field of X-ray crystallography.  While at Cambridge he came into contact with a group of engineering students at Peterhouse College, one of whom was John Carter, a young officer in the Royal Engineers who just happened to live in Budleigh.  The engineering student’s father was amateur geologist and archaeologist George Carter. His sister was Priscilla, a co-founder of Fairlynch Museum, better known to Budleigh people as Mrs Hull.

Among George Carter’s geological  investigations in Budleigh were the strange nodules or grey balls of rock protruding from the cliffs, surrounded by pale green haloes of sand.  He had already established the slight radioactive nature of the nodules, and it was John Carter who suggested to his Austrian friend that the Cavendish Laboratory might have facilities sophisticated enough to enable proper experiments to be made.  

Max Perutz visited Budleigh and took up enthusiastically the study of the nodules, collecting some samples and examining them at Cambridge. He was keen to find an original subject for a scientific thesis, and was delighted to be invited to prepare an exhibition of the geological  specimens from Budleigh at the Royal Society’s formal Conversazione or evening party in May 1937 at London’s Burlington House. 

The event was not as successful as he had hoped, and not until 1939 did he succeed in having his research published by the Leipzig-based periodical Mineralogische und Petrographische Mitteilungen.  However Perutz’s dealings with the Budleigh nodules were a valuable learning experience for him. He seems to have found the work enjoyable compared with the crystallography projects that he had undertaken at the Cavendish Laboratory. His contact with top scientists in discussions concerning the nodules convinced him that he was destined for a scientific career.

Fifty years later, at a dinner given at Peterhouse College to celebrate his 80th birthday, he made a speech ironically titled ‘My First Great Discovery.’ He spoke of his gratitude to George and John Carter.  Priscilla Hull, who attended the occasion, remembered his exact words: “If you ever get to Budleigh Salterton  do walk westwards under the cliffs at low tide and have a look at the nodules. There also used to be a small museum exhibiting old Carter’s discovery.”


Mrs Hull was pleased to be able to tell him that the museum was flourishing, with a permanent display of the curious radioactive nodules and copies of his thesis on sale.

After his study of the Budleigh nodules Perutz went on to use the X-ray diffraction method to study the structure of haemoglobin crystals. His family fled from Austria in 1938, eventually coming to England. On the outbreak of World War Two he was interned, but returned to Cambridge and was involved in various secret wartime experiments because of his experience in studying crystal structures and glaciers.  One of these projects was Project Habakkuk, aimed at building an ice-platform in mid-Atlantic to enable the refuelling of aircraft. 

The study of haemoglobin was a subject which was to occupy Perutz for most of his professional career, and led to his becoming a pioneer in the new field of molecular biology, co-founding a world-class research laboratory and developing a technique to unlock the structure of proteins. Later in life he turned to the study of changes in protein structures implicated in Huntington and other neurodegenerative diseases.  He also developed a career as a writer on science and philosophy, taking outspoken stands on issues including religion and world peace.
All this was a long way from Budleigh Salterton and those funny looking pebbles. But visit the newly refurbished Priscilla Carter Room in Fairlynch Museum today and let your mind go back to those early days in the formation of a scientific genius. And if you’re young, and that way inclined, you might even decide to follow in the footsteps of the great Max Perutz.

Flower power to help Museum

The primroses came out early this year, heralding the arrival of spring. And now with May Day we enter a new season.  It’s no surprise that this pretty plant has been adopted as our county flower,  decorating as it does, in the words of the official website “countless miles of Devon's hedgerows and roadside verges in the early months of the year.”

The flower has been chosen also for its value as a symbol of conservation.  “Common species such as the Primrose are often useful indicators of the world around us,” I read a little further on the site. 

“Unless we succeed in maintaining the status of such common plants, we stand little chance in saving those habitats and species that are already rare or threatened. By promoting the conservation of the Primrose, we can help to look after the many habitats in which it is fundamental for growth and the many species that are typically found along side it.”


'The Primrose' from volume I of Familiar Wild Flowers by F. Edward Hulme FLS, FSA

London: Cassell Petter & Galpin [1877]

So there we have it. The Primrose, like Fairlynch, is doing its bit for conservation. Primrose Cottage, the original name of the Museum building, was a highly appropriate choice for one of Budleigh Salterton’s best known landmarks, You might even call it prescient.

With spring, out with the old, in with the new. It was felt that the Museum’s newsletter needed freshening-up and with plenty of changes taking place at Fairlynch it seems a good moment to change the look of the Friends of Fairlynch newsletter.  The silhouettes, incidentally, are supposedly those of Matthew Yeates, the builder of Primrose Cottage back in 1811 or thereabouts.


This is one proposal for the new-look newsletter. Do let us know what you think, with a comment on this site or even an email to  We’d value your thoughts even if you live on the other side of the world and are not yet a Friend of Fairlynch.