Friday, 8 January 2021

SEMPER FIDELIS


Fidelis is a lovely word and was a favourite name for faithful dogs in the Victorian years. (Willie Maddison's father's old dog was called Fidelis) and, in its shortened form of Fido, (Abraham Lincoln's favourite dog was called Fido ) there are still enough faithful hounds to be found.

Exeter, as every Exonian knows, has the motto Semper Fidelis which translates as Ever Faithful. This is something of a distinction. Most cities have to manage without a motto and none has one so simple, straightforward and honourable as is ours. It is ancient too. It was suggested in the year of the Armada, 1588, in a letter written by Queen Elizabeth l to the citizens of Exeter thanking them for a gift of money towards the expense of seeing off the Spanish. We who today are citizens of Exeter should not forget that mighty monarchs have written thank-you letters to us.

In the preface to his 1878 Reminiscences, Mr James Cossins, the corresponding tobacconist of Paris Street, likes to use Ever Faithful and Semper Fidelis as synonyms for Exeter.  For example he writes in his preface that his book will be perused with some feeling of interest by those who like myself, have always felt a warm attachment to the "Ever Faithful" and elsewhere hr writes. :"Persons who have been absent from "Semper Fideis" for many years, on re-visiting the old city, declare that it is improved and so much altered they cannot recpgnise some of the localities." This seems to me a worthy usage to which we, in our modern age, might well return. One might then perhaps expect to hear on the Cathedral Green snatches of conversation such as: "The homeless seem to be attracted to Semper Fidelis like fleas to a faithful old dog."

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