Friday, 26 October 2012


From The Devonshire Chronicle and Exeter News,  15th August 1835:


"This took place on Thursday last, the town of Starcross and the River Exe presenting a most animated appearance on the occasion.  The Regatta was under the distinguished patronage of the Earl of Devon, whose seat, Powderham Castle, is near the town but whose attendance on Parliamentary duties prevented his being present.   Lady Dantze was the Lady Patroness and S.T. Kekewich Esq. and Capt. Peard R.N., Stewards; and they were assisted by an active and zealous Committee, by whom the most judicious arrangements were made.

"The Public Breakfast took place at Southwold's Courteney Arms Inn,  and was admirably served to a large and fashionable assemblage, a band of music being stationed in an adjoining gallery and playing during this very elegant affair as well as throughout the afternoon.  The weather was delightful and with a fine breeze, and in front of the town and gaily dressed lay Lord Lisle's Yacht and the Transit, E.L.Kemp Esq."

The day seemed to have been a great success except perhaps for the Steward's Race which was "admirably contested" but during which "the Fanny came in contact with a Pilot Boat, and sunk, (sic) but the crew were saved."

How different Starcross must have been, before the railway came, when all the houses looked straight out onto the Estuary.   The dignity of a local Earl made this the most 'fashionable' regatta on the river with, clearly, many of the great men and women of the time wanting to be there.    Lady Dantze, whose husband was competing, was of a family that had prospered with the woollen trade and brought the mills to Ottery.  Samuel Trehawke Kekewich Esq had recently served as the conservative MP for Exeter and is famous in local history because, in 1826, four men ringing a chime of bells in his honour at Saint Michael's Church, Alphington were struck by lightning,  one of them killed.  Captain George Peard RN lived at Exminster and, as a lieutenant, had sailed with Sir Frederick Beechey's Expedition to the Pacific and the Arctic and had brought back artefacts now in the RAMM..

No doubt they all glittered in the August sunshine.  This was assuredly a very elegant and fashionable assembly!

Tuesday, 16 October 2012


These verses, written by Arthur L Salmon under the title ‘Sunset by the Exe’ first appeared just before Queen Victoria died.    I have copied them from the book Downalong the Exe by J M Slader,  (West Country Handbooks 1966).   Slader writes, “Before returning to Exeter climb atop Great Haldon.  The view covers the whole estuary of the Exe and the hills as far as Honiton and the confines of Somerset.  Haldon Belvedere erected about 1780, by Sir Robert Palk in memory of his geat friend Stringer Lawrence is a well known landmark.  The last time I stopped here I thought of those enchanting verses by Arthur L Salmon.  Was it here that they were written?  Was this the inspiration?”

Well maybe!   But my own guess is that verses entitled “Sunset by the Exe” were probably inspired on the East bank rather than the West.   “Sunrise by the Exe” would be another matter.

The flood of light falls lingeringly
Where Exe flows out to meet the sea,
And through my heart the flood of dream
Flows deeper with the deepening gleam.

The sun hath touched with loving hand
The stretch of sea, the bars of sand,
And on each crying sea-bird’s wing
His kisses still are quivering.

The world of  spirits opens wide-
The sea of soul that hath no tide;
A moment’s vision comes to me
Where Exe flows out to meet the sea.

I pass with sunset’s passing gleam
Into the life that does not dream;
The secret guarded gates unfold
Unto the self that grows not old.

In moments thus, from youth to eld,
Too briefly given, too long withheld
The soul is snatched from time and place
To boundless peace, to boundless space.

The years that come with stain and soil,
For years of hope,  the years of toil.
Pass by and leave no least impress
Upon this inmost consciousness.

Where Exe flows forth to meet the sea
This message hath been granted me;
The soul, though fast asleep it lie,
Grows never old,  can never die.

Thursday, 11 October 2012


To stand silently by gentle waters
is fleetingly to taste
a peaceful end to time,
questions no longer,
doubts resolved.

Sunlit or starlit,
these spread waters
mirror eternal skies
where you and I
hold no investment.

Rejoice though,
however to be defined,
rest will come.
We shall be rocked in our long sleep
by gentle waters.