Friday, 11 March 2011


On Saturday 29th December 1957 was buried William John Carder, 53, lifeboatman and landlord of the Volunteer Inn in Exmouth. He was a volunteer and his father had been a volunteer before him and he had been called out in the evening of Christmas Day 1956 to be one of the crew of the Maria Noble. She launched to go to the aid of the Dutch motor vessel, Minerva. The lifeboatmen would hardly have enjoyed their Christmas puddings when they received the call. Between them they would have had a drink or two. It was a wicked wind blowing from the southeast. “It was,” said Coxwain ‘Dido’ Bradford later, “the biggest gale I have ever known in my life.” Before the Maria Noble reached the channel buoy, William Carder had been washed overboard. The lifeboat could not turn. His body was recovered from Orcombe the same day.

Another gale was howling and raging and the rain was lashing down when, four days later, William Carder’s funeral cort├Ęge left Chapel Street bound for the old church at Littleham. Silent crowds gathered in the raindrenched streets to watch the procession go by. Men took off their hats. The police sergeant on point duty solemnly saluted the dead man. At Littleham, William Carder’s coffin was carried into church by blue jerseyed, red capped lifeboatmen. The church was packed with lifeboat crewmen, launchers, rocket men, fishermen, sailors, boat builders, dockers, shipowners and their agents and representatives of all the people of Exmouth and of the Estuary. Naturally William’s fellow publicans were there too and no doubt a few sinners.

The parson did his best, as parsons do, and Tennyson’s “Crossing the Bar” was read and the salty congregation sang the old hymns “O God, our Help in Ages Past” and:

“Eternal Father! strong to save,
Whose arm hath bound the restless wave,
Who bidd’st the mighty ocean deep
Its own appointed limits keep:
O, hear us when we cry to Thee
For those in peril on the sea.

“Here in Exmouth,” said the parson of William, “We shall remember him for all time to come.”

Well, there is a plaque to his memory on the wall of the new lifeboathouse but, although little more than half a century has passed, not only is he mostly forgotten but the Exmouth in which he lived has mostly been forgotten too.

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