The Brixham Ace Blog
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Bob and Donna Myres met in 1996, when volunteering at the Torbay Hospital Radio charity, where they still broadcast to patients on a Monday evening.
In 2012 they formed the Torbay Times as a community newspaper to improve the publicity for voluntary organisations in Torbay.
Waitrose was the first large store in Torbay to sell their paper and others followed. They now have a steady circulation in the Bay and a large advertisement on a local bus.
They reached their 50th addition this month with regular columnists like our ACE member – Uncle Tom.
Dr Wollaston, the Totnes Member of Parliament, invited them to visit the Houses of Parliament and a reception, at Number Ten, for journalists. They soon discovered that their newspaper was the only one present without a bias.
They feature controversial issues, without a biased view, such as the possibility of closing local hospitals or the future of Oldway Massion.
Much of their newspaper is involved with Charity events with in Torbay
Yvonne, Janet and Sophia provided us with a most interesting, well-illustrated talk onthe Island of Madeira.
Sophia had created an expert power point presentation, which was very helpful for Yvonne’s talk.
We learnt how the island was born of an ancient volcano and that it was claimed for Portugal.
It is visited by approximately one million tourists annually and many cruise ships call.
Madeira is a lush, mountainous island popular for the numerous man made water channels called levadas, which provide lengthy walks amongst the mountains. Janet and her husband, Bruce, have visited Madeira seven times and she showed us photographs of them following the levadas amongst the mountain tops and low level clouds and views over the sea.
Yvonne showed us pictures of the world-famous New Year fireworks display, the Brazilian style carnival, the exotic flower shows, the dancing from all ages, the market of mouth-watering fruit, vegetables, fish and meat.
Yvonne had baked local delicacies which we sampled with small glasses of local wine and rum.
Their talk brightened up our grey day of frequent showers.
We would now all like to visit for ourselves.
Tina is a past friend of ACE. She started with an illustrated talk on her visit to India, which she gave dressed in a traditional Sari. Then she taught cookery on a Tuesday evening.
Now we welcome her back to share her craft knowledge. After her demonstration, wemade a Christmas Tree from an old book and decorated it.
The tree tested our dexterity, hand, eye co-ordination and skill with glue and tinsel.
It was very enjoyable and we took home our own Christmas decoration
Carl, an ACE member and our Guest Speaker organiser, provided us with an excellent talk on the ‘Sovereign’s Christmas Message’.The message was
The message was first broadcast by King George V in 1932 as part of the BBC Empire Service and is continued today by our present Queen Elizabeth II. She now broadcasts on the BBC World Service to the Commonwealth of Nations on television and the internet.
It was interesting to hear some of the topics that have been mentioned in the messages over the years. They can all be found in the Wikipedia section of the internet title.
Carl’s topic was followed by Yvonne our administrator, who told us about her trip in 2012 to Lapland in Finland.
At the time her son Carlo was a Thompson’s Holiday Rep. at the Santa Claus Villagein the Finnish capital of Rovaniemi.
We say beautiful sub-Arctic winter scenes of Santa Claus and his elves in his work shop, thick, dry snow cover fields and forests, the green Northern Lights-Aurora Borealis, reindeers and dogs pulling sleighs and the colourful costumes of the indigenous Sami people.
We finished by naming Santa’s reindeers and singing Jingle Bells.
I’d like to commend Carl and Yvonne for the pleasure of their talks, despite their nerves, and we would encourage others to follow their lead.
Janet is a volunteer and trustee of ACE and she and Bruce celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary with a holiday to Costa Rica.
Costa Rica is a Central, Latin America country, with a population of 4.5 million, situated between Nicaragua and Panama. The capital is San Jose, the main language is Spanish and the main currencies are the Colon and the American Dollar.
It has a tropical climate being 8 degrees north of the equator. 25% of the country is protected national parks and recreational hunting is banned. Ecotourism is now worth more than coffee and banana production. By 2021 they plan to be carbon neutral.
Janet illustrated her talk numerous pictures of jungle views, some of the 14 volcanoes, curious ecolodges and wildlife species of every type imaginable.
The attached examples are a toucan, a spider monkey and a hummingbird
Robbie is a former Captain in the British Army Education Corp and a War Historian.
The Battery was first established, during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I in 1586, in anticipation of a possible landing site by the Spanish Armada of 1588.
It was then prepared for use during the following:
The American War of Independence when France was an ally of the American Colonists
The Napoleonic wars when Napoleon threatened to invade
The Crimean War when the Russian Fleet was expected to travel to the Mediterranean and the Black Sea
Coast Guard training between 1870 – 1890
World War II after the evacuation from Dunkirk
On the 1st June 1940, when a German invasion was considered very likely, Winston Churchill ordered 116 batteries to be built, on the coast, from Scotland to Milford Haven.
The Brixham battery was ready and manned, on 21September 1940, by 362 Battery Royal Artillery until the success of the Battle of Britain, when Hitler cancelled operation ‘Sea Lion’, the German code name for the invasion of Britain and ordered the invasion of Russia.
378 Battery Home Guard then took charge under the command of Captain Hock. He was a German Jew who fled, with his family to Britain in 1935, to escape the persecution of the Nazis. On the declaration of war, the Hock family were interned and interrogated. The authorities discovered that Mr Hock had been a German Artillery Officer during WWI and his knowledge, skills and loathing of the Nazis could be well used to defend Britain.
The battery was equipped with a 4.7’’ gun, which had been built on licence during the WWI for the Japanese navy and then bought back in 1922, plus 2 search lights, a Swedish made Bofus anti-aircraft gun and rocket launchers. The 4.7” gun was only ever fired in practice as no surface vessels ever entered Torbay, but the searchlights and the Bofus gun were frequently used against 50 hit and run raids by German aeroplanes. These raids caused bomb damage to Brixham and vessels in the harbour, The Palace Hotel in Torquay, which was being used as an RAF hospital, killing 20 patients and 4 nurses and a church at St Marychurch one Sunday afternoon killing 20 children and 2 teachers. The batteries at Brixham and Corbyn Headshot down 2 Me 109’s and 3 Fokker Wulf 190’s. A creditable performance against such fast aircraft.
Brixham battery is a scheduled heritage site and it houses a museum in the former plotting room during the Artillery Regiment and a training room for the Home Guard.
Liz Long, from Paignton, spoke to us on how she and others founded and continue to support Lisa’s school in Northern Kenya. The development of the school can be found on their website http://www.lisasschool.org with numerous pictures.
Liz first showed us excellent pictures of elephants, lions, leopards and other wildlife in Samburu National Park in Northern Kenya, before moving on to the local town of Archer’s Post. It is situated in a very arid, dusty area where goat herding is a prime source of income.
Liz learnt that Government supported education starts at 6 years of age and there was a need for earlier schooling between 3 and 6 years.
She started fund raising with friends for such a school and they channelled the funds through Brian Freeman who runs a local Game Reserve.
The pictures of the school with the happy young children in their uniforms and their parents in their bright robes and beads is a real beacon of hope in a desperately poor community.
Liz and friends have funded the building of the school and toilets and now fund the staff wages, the books and pencils, uniforms, food to nourish the pupils and a computer plus health care, that’s included two operations of a hernia and a brain tumour. Liz confessed to many sleepless nights worrying about what they had started and letting down the hopes of the children and their parents.
We made a small contribution to this inspiring project and I’m sure you too will be moved by following the above website link.
The Torbay Poetry Festival opened with Sue and John Miles reading a selection of their poems to ACE members.
We were first taken back to the hippy era of Bob Dillon, with calls for peace and flowers in their hair.
The changing days of Autumn, flowers growing on waste land, the beauty of drifting clouds and Grandad’s garden.
Writing a poet entitled Barge. At first it seemed daunting until John realised how many words in French contained this ending.
The dreaded hospital visitor, who spreads dome and gloom instead of light relief and joy as one battles the route to recovery.
The frustrated hurry of trying to find the end of the large, modern toilet roll, whist conscious of the queue building outside the Ladies.
Reminisces from childhood and the embarrassment of having to read aloud female parts in an all boy’s school.
War time memories of being an engineer in a Motor Torpedo Boat; below the water line, with no view of where they were going and seconds to get out if hit.
The meaning of Brexit.
Kisses, Morris Minors, dog owners cleaning their side of the street, domestic chores and men trying to change the duvet cover.
We had a very entertaining morning with Grahame, from the Write Way class, making significant contributions. We do enjoy these annual visits from such varied and entertaining poets, who provide us with Festival poetry that we would, otherwise, not be able to access.
Torbay is sheltered from the prevailing South Westerly winds, but open to easterly winds. It was therefore, generally, a safe-haven for the Western Squadron.
Napoleon Bonaparte was a brilliant general with many successful victories, across Europe, to his name.
Britain, however, had a small army in contrast, but a large very successful Royal Navy commanded by Admiral Nelson.
The British navy blockaded the French ports to starve France of trade and to preventthe French navy from building its fleet and developing its skills.
The British navy used Torbay and primarily the small fishing village of Brixham, as a victualing station for water, beef and vegetables. 20-25 ships were often anchored in the bay, with a combined crew of 25,000, but they were not allowed ashore. The officers however, brought their families, to live in Torquay. Torbay benefitted greatly during the Napoleonic wars. Whilst European countries were continually at war and unsafe to visit, Britain’s wealthy classes found Torquay especially, very suitable, and they built their palatial houses, on the cool hillsides, to enjoy their lengthy stays.
Napoleon was defeated at the battle of Waterloo on 18 June 1815 and he tried to flee to America, but all the ports were blocked. On the 15 July1815 he surrendered toCaptain Maitland on HMS Bellerophon, known as Billy Ruffian, off La Rochelle.
He arrived in Torbay, in secrecy, on 24 July 1815 intending to ask for asylum. He behaved as the perfect gentleman and was very amical to all he met.
He exclaimed, on arrival,” What a beautiful country”.
Letters were quickly sent to the Admiralty.
The secret was soon broken, when a bottle, containing a message, was thrown from the ship and picked up by schoolboy John Smart. The local boats, gave up fishing, and conveyed sight seers close to the ship, where Napoleon bowed and removed his hat.
People were showing signs of feeling sorry for him and the Admiralty were afraid he would meet and charm the King and achieve his desire - an English gentleman.‘The Tyrant of Europe’ was moved to Plymouth from 26 July until 4 August, where hewas transferred to HMS Northumberland for exile to Saint Helena, a small isolated island, in the Atlantic Ocean off Africa. He arrived on 15 October and later died in 1821.
Paul started by showing us a number of different acoustic and electric guitars.
He explained the different parts of each guitar and demonstrated how they sound, because of their different wooden construction, the number of strings, either gut or steel, the effect of a capo, amplification and how the strings were played using finger picking or strumming with a hard or soft plectrum.
He played various well known numbers like: ‘In the early morning rain’, ‘Scarborough Fair’, ‘You’ve got a friend’, ‘Good night Irene’, ‘California dreaming’ and Starry, Starry night’.
We sang along with many of them and we thoroughly enjoyed the morning going down memory lane.
She was one of four who in 2005/2006 formed The Devon Players to produce local historic plays.
They produced ‘A Tale of John Prince’, which is a saucy tale about a ‘Gentleman of the Road’.
The Trial of Anne Bonny and Mary Reed, who were lady pirates based on the Barbary Pirates who captured English people for slavery in the east. It was shown at Brixham’s Pirate Festival.
The Great Gale of January 1866 when a south east gale wrecked many of Brixham’s fishing fleet and cost many lives. The fishermen’s wives made a fire beacon, of broken furniture, on the breakwater to guide their men folk home.
Medieval Christmas, staged at Exeter Cathedral, when King Edward I was murdered.
The Ballard of Resurrection of Bob Elliot the smuggler.
Les Miserable ‘The Memoirs of Jean Valjean’.
Romeo and Juliet staged in 19th Century Brixham between Cow town and Fish town.
Survivors of the Titanic who faced the Board of Trade in Plymouth.
The Players wish to build local acting skills based on, well researched, challenging projects for theatre and film.
We enjoyed listing to Laura and her impressive list of productions. We wished her luck for the future.
More details can be found on www.southdevonplayers.com
Deserts do not all consist of the romantic image of sand and sand dunes. Many are made of gravel, mountains, dried river valleys, salt pans and sometimes oases.
Deserts are usually very hot places with temperatures between 35 to 70 They receive less than 10” of annual rainfall, which includes parts of East Anglia in England and Spain.
When it does rain the desert blooms like the Californian Poppy. Plants survive like the Yucca by putting down deep roots and slow growth. Most have thick skin with sharp thorns that covers a succulent centre within.
In the Sonoran Desert in western USA a moth lays its eggs on the cactus and the larva bore their way in. This leads to bacterial infections and rot that can eventually lead to access for woodpeckers and nesting birds like the Elf Owl.
Roger showed us pictures and spoke about the Cactus Wren, humming birds, the Road Runner, toads, spiders, scorpions, lizards, Diamond Backed Rattle Snakes, jack rabbits, jackals, big horned sheep and Pumas. A wonderful natural population that are at home in these challenging places.
He explained the danger of introducing non-native species like the South African Gemsbok that has no natural predators in the Sonoran Desert and populations have exploded.
We saw the dwellings of ancient native people whose houses were built into cool caves.
Roger’s talk provided us with an excellent visit to these hot, arid, forbidding places, which we enjoyed very much.
Bill first told us a little about himself. He was born in Pontefract, Yorkshire and he preferred sport to academic studies. His first job was in the Personnel Department of the National Coal Board and then he moved to Sheffield to deal with the redundancies in the Coal, Shipbuilding and Steel industries.
Sadly, after having a serious, head on collision car accident, which involved months in hospital recovering and learning to walk again, he was pensioned off. He returned to college and education.
In 1994 he was awarded the MBE by our Queen for services to Steel.
He has worked as a volunteer for the RNLI and Brixham Does Care. In 2002 he joined PROBUS. It is an organisation for Professional and Business men and women, which started, as a luncheon club, in 1971 in London and has grown worldwide.
It does not have a central governing body and each group is free to make its own rules.
Brixham’s PROBUS started in 1967 and the members have chosen to have a separate group for men and for women. They are open to all regardless of their occupation.
The men meet on Thursday morning in the Catholic Church Hall, where we have our own sound equipment. Their 54 regular members pay £2 per visit and they can pay into a raffle. This covers expenses and three annual social dinners.
Each week we have a visiting speaker, who is free to speak on any subject except politics and religion. There is no dinner provided, but many members meet at venues nearby for a drink and a meal.
We care for the welfare of members by contacting those who are not well and we provide those who need support. Our wives enjoy their own space on a Thursday.
The women’s PROBUS meets every other Tuesday at the same venue.
We enjoyed listening to Bill and we thanked him for all his service to the community.
TSP are trained volunteers from the church community who try to help and support vulnerable people in Torbay.
SP were introduced to the UK in1993 in Brixton, South London, by The Reverend Les Isaac. They are modelled on the SP of Jamaica.
TSP work with the police and the Council and they have reduced crime as a result.
We have a van, kitted out like an ambulance, which is staffed by 3 people plus 2 mobile teams of 4 on foot (2 men and 2 women). We attend Torquay’s harbour side night club area, on Friday and Saturday night, to help people in trouble and who are vulnerable. Most often we help girls who are drunk and who’ve lost their friends. We talk to them and offer help. We don’t preach. We will use their phones to call home and arrange for someone to come and collect them. Taxis will not carry them, but unofficial cars may and then they are very vulnerable to sexual assault.
We wear a blue uniform with Street Pastors written on the back and carry a rucksack with flip flops, space blankets, bottles of water and strong gloves. We can offer them flip flops, which they have to pay for, if they are bare foot, water and a space blanket.
We use the gloves to collect bottles, broken or not, cans, umbrellas and any other possible offensive weapons.
I love the work and have never, not wanted, to go out.
We have a Friday night presence in Brixham from 8.30 - 12 pm to safeguard the young people leaving the youth clubs.
Christine told us a number of incidents that she has been involved in that illustrated the type of work and why it is so important.
We can be contacted on 01803 411214, 07517867349 or email@example.com
Paul gave us a most interesting talk about Guy Fawkes, the Gunpowder plot and Bonfire night.
Guy Fawkes was a Roman Catholic and he fought for King Phillip III of Spain against the Protestant Netherlands. He tried in vain to raise support from Phillip for a catholic rebellion in England.
When he returned to England he met Robert Catesbury, who was plotting to assassinate King James I of England and King James VI of Scotland. Catesbury and his 12 conspirators intended to install a daughter of Queen Mary as a Catholic monarch.
Their plan was to blow up the Houses of Parliament on November 5 1605 when the king was delivering his opening speech.
However an anonymous letter was received by Lord Monteagle advising him not to attend Parliament on this date. It was disclosed and Guy Fawkes was found in a room below the House of Lords guarding 36 barrels of gunpowder stacked with tinder wood. He was arrested, tortured and confessed to the Gunpowder plot with others. They were all later hung drawn and quartered on 31st January 1606.
Parliament passed a law that hence forth fires will be light on 5th November to celebrate saving the king. It was repealed in 1859, but the celebration continues.
The Festival, in its 15th year, started on 20 October this year with its first readings at Brixham’s Access to Community Education group for disabled people known as ACE.
William Oxley, one of the festival organisers, introduced Gavin Boulus, from Edinburgh, to us.
He entertained us alone, for 50 minutes, with the following poems and songs sometimes accompanying himself on his bongo drums.
He started with ‘Black River’ a protest poem about pollution and careless waste disposal.
Napoleon whilst he waited in Torbay to learn his fate, after defeat at Waterloo. He was a very popular tourist attraction.
A very attractive waitress that he longed to talk with, but he couldn’t pluck up the courage.
The 42 bus as it journeyed around Edinburgh.
The Falkland’s war
The Drum beat of concern
Where the motorway used to end
We very much enjoyed his skilled recitals in many moods.
He enjoyed our warm reception and applause.
Lions Club International by Lion John Sims
John’s illustrated talk was very impressive. We learnt so much about an organisation that is very familiar to us all, but so little understood.
It started in 1917 when a Chicago businessman Melvin Jones called a meeting of his local business clubs and suggested that they reach beyond business issues and address the betterment of communities across the world. They agreed.
They contacted further groups in the USA and together held another meeting in June 1917. They laid the foundations of the Lions Club as an international group for good that is now approaching its centenary in 2017. Their motto is:”We serve.”
John elaborated on how Lions clubs work as individuals, but under one umbrella, to support both local and international issues.
From 1925 they agreed to be, “knights of the blind in the crusade against darkness.” They developed the white cane, guide dog training, eye banks, the recycling of spectacles and the fight against River Blindness. They also provide support for international disasters, the eradication of measles and many local charitable projects.
They encourage youth membership to develop the Lions of the future, community leaders and young businesses.
There are now Lions Clubs in 200 different countries of the world with 1.41 million members.
It was fascinating to reflect on the good work by this universal group.
We felt the Lion’s buzz.
Rosemary Clarke and Helen Barrett of Brixham town council are strong proponents of Fair Trade, an organisation dedicated to making sure that producers and their employees receivea fair price for their goods with the aim of eradicating poverty and child labour. Some coffees,chocolates and all Tate and Lyle sugars are among the foodstuffs that are ethically producedand allowed to display the Fair Trade logo.
The supermarkets Co-op and Sainsbury's sell only Fair Trade Bananas. Non food products like cotton and footballs are often produced with Fair Trade ethics in mind.
The increased wealth of these regions & tea and sugar plantations for example' has financed building projects to provide dignified toilet facilities, schools and community centres.
Due in no small part to the work of Rosemary and Helen and the help of ethical businesses like Stokes shop, many cafes and other organisations, Brixham now qualifies as a Fair Trade town.
After an informative and interesting presentation Helen and Rosemary entertained us with a short quiz
Charles’s illustrated talk on Lupton House was most interesting and enlightening.
The site is first recorded as an Anglo Saxon village and then as Locktone in the Dooms Day Book of 1087. The present house was built by Charles Hayne in 1772 and it was bought by Judge Sir Francis Buller in 1792. He was a very active local judge, who apparently said it was permissible for a man to beat his wife provided the stick was no thicker than a man’s thumb. Hence the saying: ‘The rule of thumb’.
The house and the estate have been continually redeveloped with driveways, stables, kennels, a walled kitchen garden and an Italian formal garden.
The house was occupied, in the build up to D Day, by a transport unit of the American Army. In the years following it became a home to 3 different schools and is best remembered for the last being Gramercy Hall School.
It closed in 2004 and abandoned until 2008, when the council sort to sell it for private development. Fortunately for the community, however, it was secured by a newly formed Lupton House Trust and now provides an excellent wedding venue, a place to enjoy refreshments and a host of learning opportunities.