Thursday, 18 February 2016

Clean-up job on the Rosemullion

It's been quite an eye-opener to discover the thousands of photos in Fairlynch Museum's collection. I used quite a number in the recent re-edition of the Budleigh Salterton Railway booklet. 

Now that the Museum's Local History Room is being re-organised there's a need for photos to illustrate various aspects of the area's past. 

Sometimes the photos are not quite as perfect as one would like. The attached pic shows waitresses at the Rosemullion Hotel in Budleigh, demolished many years ago and replaced by blocks of flats. No date is given for the photo, and only Miss Lucy Sanders, front row, left, has been identified. 

If you think that their uniforms look unnaturally dazzling white, as if they've been washed in biological detergent, that's because the wonders of the IT age allowed me to clean up those pinnies, which were definitely on the grubby side in the original photo. 

After all, the Rosemullion was supposed to be one of Budleigh's smartest hotels. 

If you can help identify the age of the photo or any of the other people in it please drop me a line.  


Calling ex-Londoners from Newham living in the Budleigh area

'Buses' fan Sir Robin Wales, Mayor of Newham

Are you a cradle-born Cockney with a connection to Canning Town? Or just a new arrival from the Borough of Newham, which covers that part of London?  Would you by any chance be a fan of On the Buses or The Rag Trade?

I’m seeking a suitable candidate for the role of representative of the Mayor of Newham, Sir Robin Wales, at Fairlynch Museum’s Exhibitions Preview evening on Thursday 24 March.

Invited guests will be able to view the 2016 exhibition ‘Our Little Clown’, an event which which will mark the centenary of the birth of the actor and entertainer Reg Varney, who retired to Budleigh Salterton.

You don’t have to speak Cockney, or even wear a mayoral chain. You might just have lived for a short time in Newham, or even better in Canning Town before moving to East Devon. I’m just looking for someone who would be willing to represent  the Borough and who would enjoy reading a message in public from Sir Robin Wales, Newham’s Mayor, to our guests at the Preview Evening.

Sir Robin told me that he is indeed a ‘Buses’ fan. Sadly he is unable to attend the event in Budleigh.

If you can help please email me

No ‘Strictly’ Stardom for me, boo hoo!

A scene from the 60s: Kids help the fishermen on Budleigh beach   
Image credit: Fairlynch Museum 

The first thing I need to say is that Fairlynch Museum may be featured on BBC1 tomorrow, Friday 19 February, 2016 at 3.45pm.

I shall of course, be watching, though with some regret.

Many months ago the Museum was approached by TV company Raise the Roof Productions for permission to film the building.

The company was intending to make a programme in the ‘Holiday of My Lifetime’ series, in which a celebrity recalls his or her first memorable holiday in a conversation with Len Goodman. Yes, the Len Goodman who judges all those Amazing Contestants on Strictly Come Dancing. 

The celebrity in question was going to be Valerie Singleton. Is going to be Valerie Singleton. You know!  The one in the middle in that Blue Peter Annual Number 5.  Blue Peter from many moons ago on the BBC. (Which is why the episode is being broadcast in the afternoon).

Yet another Blue Peter Annual from my collection

Naturally enough I imagined that I would be interviewed by Len Goodman and or Valerie Singleton before being invited to star on Strictly Come Dancing with those  Amazing Contestants. Nothing of the sort happened of course. The cameraman turned up and filmed some of the rooms at Fairlynch - being particularly impressed by the Joyce Dennys paintings - and then went away and I heard nothing more. 

So sad!

Never one to be put off I asked Google for help and came across this charming recollection by the former Blue Peter presenter. She’d actually recorded it not for television but for a travel company called Wendy Wu Tours.  

‘When I was growing up, people didn’t go abroad then so we tended to go on
caravanning holidays,’ recalled Ms Singleton. ‘One particularly happy  holiday I remember was in Ladram Bay in Devon between Sidmouth and Budleigh Salterton. I used to get up very early and sneak out of the caravan without my parents knowing and go out with the fishermen to help lay their nets. I then ran up to the local farm to buy fresh eggs and warm milk straight from the cows. It was idyllic and very different to holidays children enjoy nowadays.’

It’s such a trip into nostalgia that I’d like to credit the source at

Yes indeed. I thought of my own childhood holidays, camping in the family tent in farmers’ fields and trying to avoid the cowpats.

There were, apparently, photos of Valerie Singleton helping local fishermen which the TV company would be using. I’d hoped to be able to copy the images, but no luck – I suppose they were too busy.

More helpful kids, as seen in another photo from the Fairlynch Museum collection

Never mind. Ms Singleton’s memories had got me thinking of an episode in a book I’d read. It’s a detective story by V.C. Clinton-Baddeley called No Case for the Police, featuring the fictional detective Dr Davie and set in the village of Tidwell St Peter’s. Keen readers of my scribblings will recognize this place as Budleigh Salterton, and of course the detective is Clinton-Baddeley himself. Check it out here  if you have time.

A Cambridge graduate and lifelong friend of Joyce Dennys, the author was brought up in the area and is buried in East Budleigh following his death in 1970.  

‘There doesn’t seem to be any mackerel fishing nowadays,’ observes Davie to an old fisherman he meets on the beach.
‘All over,’ said the old cove.
‘When I was a boy the fishermen used to sit up here and watch the sea for the shoals, and suddenly one of them would cry out and point at a glittering in the water, and they’s all rush down to the beach and jump into a boat and row out in a circle, paying out a net. It would be quite close to shore.’
‘So it were.’
‘And then they’d land and draw in the net and the children would help pull.’
‘So they did,’ said the old cove.
‘I used to pull,’ said Davie.
‘Did you, then?’
‘And when the haul was landed we used to be given a fish for our services. I fear it must have been a gross over-payment.’
‘It’s all finished now,’ said the old cove. ‘The mackerel boats is all over to Exmouth.’

Mackerel fishing… camping holidays among the cowpats… warm milk from the cows… I even remember a butter churn from my Gloucestershire childhood. All memories.  All gone.

But we have the photos of how it used to be. Some of them may be used in the re-organised Local History Room at Fairlynch, where I hope we will be able to give greater prominence to what used to be such an important local industry.

So don’t forget! BBC1 on Friday, TOMORROW, at 3.45pm. Enjoy the trip!

And if you have your own memories of such local things do get in touch so that the Museum can record them.   

Saturday, 6 February 2016

Ambassador’s appeal

I’ll be posting from time to time my thoughts about the Jurassic Coast, having just accepted an invitation from Guy Kerr, Community Coordinator for the Jurassic Coast Team to become one of the Coast's Ambassadors.  More information can be found about that at

Just after I've accepted the invitation my dear daughter Rosie tells me that she is going to run a half marathon dressed as a dinosaur for Macmillan. So I suppose that makes a sort of sense. There will be pics to prove it. If you can spare a few quid please sponsor me she asks.

Go on! It’s a worthy cause and it’ll prove to my children that people do read my blog.     


Barely credible

It’s barely credible that my azaleas are flowering in February and indeed that February has arrived, preoccupied as I have been with the life of Reg Varney. But now my forthcoming biography has gone off to the printer and I’m back to blogging with a vengeance, realising that I haven’t yet posted my Object of the Month on Fairlynch Museum’s noticeboard.

So here it is for your enjoyment along with my attempt at some matching verse, and when the rain stops and the wind dies down I might toddle along to Fairlynch for the noticeboard update.  

Click on the image to make it bigger.