Sunday, 26 July 2015

Kimmo Evans (1972-2014)

There’s a poignant air about this photo that I took of Kimmo Evans in November 2013, a year before his death from leukaemia. 

He’d come to Budleigh Salterton’s Peter Hall to give a talk jointly organised by the Otter Valley Association and Fairlynch Museum.  As Community Development Officer for East Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty he wanted to explain why the AONB is celebrating its 50 years.

It was an excellent talk: he radiated enthusiasm for his work. I still remember his amazement that so few of the audience had heard a nightjar, and the offer that he made on the spot to organize a night-time trip to Woodbury Common to hear its strange whirring call. 

You can listen to it now at 

At the time I noticed how frail he seemed, and later I learnt that he was ill. It was sad to learn of the premature death of such a lively, interested and much-loved man.

The following appreciation of Kimmo’s life was contributed by Chris Woodruff, AONB Manager at East Devon AONB.  

Kimmo Evans
(AKA Captain Peanut, Goose, The Viking, Steve)
25 February 1972 – 8 December 2014, Seaton, Devon.
Son of Kirsti and Andrew, brother of Jake, husband to Steph and father of Jessica.

Kimmo moved from Peterborough to Devon in 2004 following his appointment to the East Devon AONB team. He left English Nature, as it was then, where he was involved with marine policy work, to join the new and recently established AONB team.

Prior to this, Kimmo had worked on the coast at Flamborough Head, and before that in a variety of jobs following his Marine Biology studies at Liverpool University. He clearly wanted a change of work and in moving to Devon, wished to be more involved with people rather than policy. It does not take a genius to work out why: height and laugh aside, he stood out from the other interviewees for the AONB post, and with his affable, personable and inquisitive nature he slipped into the team like a hand into a glove.

Initially renting in Sidbury before buying a property in the Umborne valley, Kimmo, with wife Steph and young daughter Jess, spread their roots and immersed themselves totally in the local community. Kimmo used his work experience and knowledge to good effect to assist in the amazing and wonderful transformation of the Umborne Hall, making many new friends along the way. Orchards, sheep, chickens and dogs filled his family life in between barbecues, seaside breaks, cycling, walking, holidays, visiting the wider family and friends, and of course his annual footballing passion with old University buddies ‘Atletico Alumni’

Kimmo started AONB life as a Communications Officer but his role quickly changed to Community Development Officer. Much of his time he was out and about developing links and projects, supporting local action and getting closer to the communities of the AONB: a duck to water and heavily influential in raising the AONB Partnership’s profile.

Kimmo was also an active member of the Axe Vale & District Conservation Society (AVDCS) and very supportive of all it stood for. He was a committed Committee member, braving the elements on tasks and assisting in marshalling the Grizzly* on occasions. When not at work or with family, Kimmo greatly enjoyed the opportunity to socialise or be active. A keen member of the Axe Valley Pedallers, he made many new friends whilst on his bike, and always enjoyed the opportunity of a ‘cheeky vimto’ (sloe gin) or jellybeans.

The stories recounted at Kimmo’s funeral about his college time and of him playing in the street with kids summed up his lust for enjoyment and fun in life. Never able to say no; always looking to the positive; Kimmo lived life to the full and was ever-active. Yet despite his energetic endeavours he had a calmness and personal touch that mean he always had time and thought for others – a giver, not a taker.

Kimmo fought leukaemia hard following diagnosis in 2012 and we all believed he had succeeded, following his ‘all clear’. But a second strain proved too much and his final days were spent at his home in Seaton with his close and supportive family and health carers, where he had time to plan his final days with others in mind, as ever.

For those who were able to attend Kimmo’s fineral at Whimple on 29 December, I can think of no better way to say farewell to this kind, loving and wonderful man. A truly special event for a truly special man. Kimmo is now at peace. We sorely miss him, but his love and joy for life will remain strong in us all, as indeed will his infectious laugh.

Our love and thoughts to out to Steph, Jess and family and close friends. His ashes will be spread on the beach, making the coast a special place for us all to remember this special man.

Chris Woodruff

* Charity race organized by the Axe Valley Runners.  

Hunting the Ladies of the Raj: Part 2

Lord Byron in Albanian dress painted by Thomas Phillips in 1813. Venizelos Mansion, Athens (the British Ambassador's residence).  
Did he know any ladies of the Raj?

My journalist visitor at Fairlynch Museum whom I mentioned previously was Mavis Ellis. She seems to have specialised in writing on 19th century subjects including Lord Byron, who is buried at the Church of St. Mary Magdalene in Hucknall near her home in Nottinghamshire.

A blue plaque identifies Henry Carter's home on Fore Street Hill, now known as Umbrella Cottage 

I sent her up the hill to look at Umbrella Cottage, the home of Henry Carter, the doctor, geologist and marine sponge expert who had spent so much of his working life in 19th century India.

She did not return to the Museum, so I imagine that she may have gone back to Sidmouth,  disappointed that the ladies of the Raj had disappeared from Budleigh Salterton.

Had she been a nerdy surfer like me she might have found, while researching 19th century India, this link at

That reference, to the summary of an MA University of Exeter thesis, dated 1995, was one of many hundreds that I’d chased up while researching Henry Carter’s years as a doctor in Bombay. Excitingly, it was entitled ‘Women’s Tales of the Raj.’

A scene from life in the Raj

As I read the summary, I realised that the author, a Guinevere Mary Cavanagh, might have the answer as to where to find those Raj ladies of Budleigh Salterton. 

“This dissertation,” explained the summary, “opens a window onto the lives and writing of the women of the British Raj. It evaluates the relationship between the white woman and newly colonized India.

By studying their journals it is possible to reconstruct their lives and to assess their role in the Colonial Scheme. The writing of the Mem Sahibs has been relegated to the peripheries of Imperialist culture and subsumed into an homogeneously patriarchal tradition. Immured within the archives of an Imperial adventure, their experiences have been ignored and their voices silenced.”

Keeping up appearances in the Raj

For with a bit more surfing the net I found that the author had been living almost opposite Fairlynch Museum, at 30 Fore Street. Born in 1920, she’d submitted her dissertation at the age of 75.

I read on.

Another domestic scene from life in India during British rule

This study,” the abstract continues, “discloses a separate feminine experience of colonialism documented in journals and letters. These form a minute but important section of women's history yielding insights into their own perception of their roles. Women reacted to the strangeness and enormity of India in different ways. Some by simply replicating so far as possible the 'manners and customs' of life in the home country, remaining faithful to the prevailing norms of 'separate spheres'. Others found travel a liberating experience offering opportunities for the exercise of philanthropy by teaching or working in the mission field.

Women who by their presence in India under British rule were perforce complicit with colonialism, were not necessarily approving of it. Some endeavoured to ameliorate its harshness and all were obliged to negotiate their position as they constructed their 'other' from within the constraints of class and gender.”

Was Guinevere Mary Cavanagh ‘a lady of the Raj’ recommended to Mrs Ellis by the Indian professor at Bristol University?

Even if she were not, it sounded to me as if her dissertation could have been based on interviews with those ladies who had settled in Budleigh Salterton after their years of living in India. As well as study of their diaries. 

What had happened to Ms Cavanagh’s MA dissertation, I wondered? Had it been accepted? Where could  one read it? Could it have provided material for Margaret MacMillan’s 2007 best-selling book Women of the Raj? Or Anne de Courcy’s equally popular 2013 book The Fishing Fleet about Husband-Hunting in the Raj.

I was a bit put out to discover that the online link to the dissertation summary no longer works. The helpful Exeter University librarian had not been able to locate it anywhere, and we had to assume that the dissertation itself had been discarded in the pre-digital age.

Finally I found a Budleigh resident who remembered Guinevere Mary Cavanagh as a remarkable lady who had been a nurse during World War Two, or a member of the Dutch Resistance, or both – at any rate she spoke fluent Dutch, he recalled. 

Sadly she had passed on, and nobody in Budleigh seems to know about her dissertation.

But I don’t give up easily.

(To be continued

Friday, 24 July 2015

Heath Week Sunday 26 - Friday 31 July 2015

I snapped a photo of this poster, one of many in the area publicising the 2015 East Devon Heath Week.

But what better way to advertise the event than with this t-shirt, worn by Fairlynch Museum’s own Nicky Hewitt.

Nicky is in charge of the archaeology and geology collections at the Museum in the Priscilla Carter Room, where you can also see displays of the local wildlife which makes our region so special.    

A geologist by training, Nicky works part-time as an administrator at the RSPB nature reserves on the Exe Estuary and at Aylesbeare. You can find out about them here
and here.

I regularly mention on this blog around this time of the year the East Devon Heath Week. It starts this Sunday 26 July from 11.00 am at Woodbury Castle, the Iron Age hill fort mid-way between Budleigh Salterton and the village of Woodbury.

The Heath Week is an annual series of events that aim to celebrate the fantastic landscape of Woodbury Common and its heaths. Each year it takes place at the end of July, a good time to see heathland and its wildlife at its best.

You can download the programme here

Smiles and sunshine for the 'Smugglers and Pirates' Family Fun Day

Serious contenders in the costume competition 

Fairlynch's Smugglers and Pirates-themed Family Fun Day was a hit with the crowds on last Saturday 18 July when the museum welcomed visitors young and old. 

Attractions included games, stalls, 'Smugglers in the Stocks', and a costume competition judged by the Mayor of Budleigh Salterton, as well as cream teas.

"It was great to have parents and children from the local schools and pre-school groups join us for the Fun Day," said organiser Christine Bailey.  "The museum is a resource for all the families in this area and we want them to recognise us as a source of entertainment as well as information."

Museum Chairman Trevor Waddington  congratulated the volunteers for having worked so hard to make the Fun Day event the huge success that it undoubtedly was.

Smiles and sunshine for the Smugglers and Pirates Day

A fun outing for the family in Fairlynch Museum garden 

That knife shows that he means business

Entering competitors for the different categories of the competition 

Prizes for each of the category winners 

The Mayor awarded the prizes 

There were prizes for the very young...

and for those a little older 

Definitely a roguish laugh

Mayor Courtney Richards admits this pirate has a point

There were plenty of other activities apart from the costume competition 

Extreme concentration was needed for this one  

As it was for the pirates and smugglers quiz 

Others just needed luck

For this one you just needed a good aim to hit the smuggler in the stocks

Or you could just enjoy the cream tea as the Mayor did

And even try a Granny Gothards ice cream


All in all, a fun day for organisers and visitors

Results of the Smugglers and Pirates Costume Competition:

1-4 years
Winner: Leo Hetherington and Louis Hames
Highly commended: Jasmin Rose Warren
Highly commended: Brian Renshaw and Reuben Martin

5-7 years
Winner: Rihanna Shaw and Ben Picton
Highly commended: Jessica Garnett
Highly commended: Rhys Hames

8-10 years
Winner: Scarlett Gibbons
Highly commended: Faith Holder

11-14 years
Winner: Cecily Turner
Highly commended: Lucinda Stuart-Banks

Winner: Di Waddington

Highly commended: Roz Hickman 

The answer for the 'Guess the pirate's name' quiz was:

Sir Francis Verney

Born 1584 in Tring, Hertfordshire. Died 1615, aged 31, in Messina, Sicily. A Barbary corsair who based his operations in Algiers. Born a nobleman, he left England after the House of Commons sided with his stepmother in a legal dispute over his inheritance. 

(Well, I never knew that!) 

Sunday, 19 July 2015

Obituary: Bernard Quinn (1926-2010)

This blog, as I write elsewhere, is a kind of museum in cyberspace covering mainly news and features relating to Budleigh Salterton and the surrounding villages of the Lower Otter Valley.  

Inevitably it’s turning out to be a useful archive for people wanting to stage exhibitions at Fairlynch Museum, or simply to fill gaps in research, with that useful search engine box in the top left corner.

So I was a bit put out to discover that somehow I hadn’t included the following appreciation of the life of Museum volunteer Bernard Quinn, although it was published on the Devon Museums’ Fairlynch site on 2 February 2012.

Well, I can’t get everything  right.  Anyway, here's the missing post:

Although some years have passed now since his death at the age of 84, on 9 April 2010, Bernard Quinn, pictured above, is well remembered at Fairlynch for the cheerful and friendly approach with which he greeted visitors and fellow-volunteers, as well as for his spirit of dedication to the Museum.  Sam Richards, a former colleague and his closest friend writes:

Bernard Quinn came from the Birkenhead area which he left to serve in the Royal Navy in the mid 1940s. Following his service period during World War Two he worked for some time in the Civil Service but the wanderlust, no doubt nurtured during his naval years, led him to find employment in what was then described as a 'West African Merchant House' in the early 1950s.

The company was one of the lesser known Unilever operations. Whilst it was unknown in the UK it was in fact one of the largest companies operating in Nigeria, the Gold Coast and Sierra Leone and was called G.B. Ollivant Ltd, part of the United Africa group of Unilever. Bernard spent some time as a manager, mainly in Eastern Nigeria based in Port Harcourt, and performed in various capacities. 

For a while, for example, he used to tour the region visiting various villages with a large metal box full of money to pay farmers for their palm oil kernels which the company shipped back to the UK for Unilever's soap industry. The import side of the business covered a very wide range of merchandise such as foodstuffs, drinks, perfumes, medicines and a very wide range of hardware such as tools, enamelware, agriculture equipment and fishing materials.

Unfortunately in the 1960s Bernard fell ill with mysterious intestinal problems and the company repatriated him to the UK. He spent time in London hospitals then in Manchester. His condition was intermittent and lasted for some years. Eventually the problem was correctly diagnosed in the Manchester Royal Infirmary and there what proved to be the last of several operations was successful although it did leave him with his diabetic condition for the rest of his life. It is fair to say he was a walking miracle because the operation had been 'A First'.

Since this health problem was intermittent for much of the time he was able to lead a normal life and the company, G.B.Ollivant Ltd, employed him as a Buying Manager in the head office in Manchester where we worked as colleagues because I held the same position.

On holiday with a friend 

During one of his less troublesome periods he met and eventually married Hilma and theirs proved to be a very good match. They had a long and happy marriage in spite of his recurring health problems, which was not only sometimes demoralising for him but very stressful for Hilma. Sadly she pre-deceased him.

Before moving to Green Mews in Budleigh Salterton on his retirement, he and Hilma had lived in Sale near Manchester and then Marple, Cheshire in an attractive flat roofed bungalow with a garden area so large they found a horse wandering around in it one day.

Bernard was a private man and never really spoke about himself or his family. However, without ever prying, he was a very good listener and made everyone he talked to feel they had told him something very interesting. He had a keen sense of humour and an inquisitive nature regarding a wide range of subjects, including world affairs.

Since our retirements to separate parts of the UK,  we only visited each other three or four times a year but I do miss him, his enquiring mind and his ready smile.