Wednesday, 5 May 2010
THE LIEUTENANT AND THE SERVANT BOY
It was a Friday, the 29th day of March 1816 and young Walter Folliott was at home on leave. He, at the tender age of nineteen, was already a Lieutenant of Royal Marines who had seen active service aboard His Majesty’s ships. His family had worried about him during his long absence from home and imagined him facing the dangers of war but he had triumphed and had returned home to them safe and sound and they had rejoiced to welcome him. He was a personable young man who, as his death notices in the papers put it, ‘had endeared himself by the most amiable and conciliating manners.’ No doubt he had a conciliating relationship with the servant boy whom he took sailing with him in his pleasure boat.
Walter’s father was Captain Daniel Folliott of the Royal Navy who had served with Admiral Byng off Minorca and who lived at Topsham. He had been born Daniel Follett but later changed his name. Walter's pleasure boat would have put out from the riverside near the Follett house, Follett Lodge, close by the Passage Inn and famous as the birthplace of William Webb Follett. On that blustery March day Walter went sailing on the Estuary and took with him the servant boy who died with him. The servant boy’s death went unnoticed except in so far as he was there, with his master, in a small boat.
When they were sailing past Powderham, the boat was suddenly upset by a gust of wind. They were in the deep waters of the channel. The capsize was seen and within minutes other boats came to the spot but both Walter and the servant boy had disappeared. They had drowned. Of Walter, it was written in the papers of the time that, by his family as well as to a large circle of friends, ‘his loss will be long and severely deplored.’
There is a memorial to young Walter on the walls of Topsham church. The servant boy, of course, gets no mention.