Friday, 26 March 2010


John Carder was an Exmouth ferryman. As ‘John the Ferryman’ he became something of a local character, loved and remembered by visitors. Shortly before he died he was portrayed, standing in his little rowing boat, in a wonderful Murduck postcard. He had a bushy white beard and he mostly wore his famous, very jolly, bowler hat. He rowed passengers to and from the Outer Warren. In 1913 he fell into Exmouth dock after a happy night on the cider and drowned. The morning light showed only his bowler hat floating over his watery grave.

In the days when Exmouth welcomed careful drovers, there was a beast market where now is Market Street. Exmouth men would get up early and walk out sometimes as far as Exeter to drive sheep and cattle and other beasts back to market. For centuries, however, some of the beasts also came across the Estuary from Dawlish carried by ferry from the Outer Warren to the Point.

John Carder had started work as a ferry crewman in 1861. Up until his death he was still ferrying. He was rowing holidaymakers and the numerous Warren bungalowdwellers back and forth across the race. But in his early years he had worked on a ferry that must have been a sizeable vessel. In the Exmouth Journal of August 29th 1908, he is reported as telling how on market days in Exmouth the ferryboat would regularly carry over sheep and horses from Dawlish and would bring even carriages across. There must once have been a considerable traffic between Dawlish and Exmouth with sheep being herded and horses being ridden and carriages being driven over the sandy dunes and levels.

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