Monthly Archives: November 2014

The Parson and Clerk

Parson and Clerk rock formation

Parson and Clerk rock formation

From ‘mystery’ a few days ago we return to myth today.

From Sprey Point we have a good view of the famous Parson and Clerk rock formation at the end of the next headland. This has already been the subject of two posts – introduced originally via Rudyard Kipling’s ‘Smugglers Song’ and followed by a more modern interpretation of the Parson and Clerk legend by Charles Causley.

So on the walk from Sprey Point to the Parson and Clerk rocks we have time to take in this third poetic (and long) interpretation of the legend, this one another work by the Railway Poet Thomas Aggett.

The Parson and Clerk
(Thomas Aggett)

Some centuries since, but I cannot convince
Myself to precisely the date it occurred.
My granny bewailed that her memory failed,
But ‘twas during Elizabeth’s reign she averred.

A Rectory giving a very good living
In a Devonshire village quite close by the sea,
Whose incumbent had enough to make his heart glad enough
And should have been happy, as happy could be.

Degrees without end, a Norwich prebend,
And a precentor somewhere in Ireland was he.
And dignities twenty, which should have been plenty,
Still he was not content as he really should be.

With avarice mad, tho’ a promise he had
From the ecclesiastical patron in power,
That the next vacant See should most certainly be
Placed at his disposal whenever the hour.

Now this promise had he for the next vacant See,
And as Exeter’s Bishop was on the decline,
Whose body less stronger, couldn’t hold out much longer
He hoped he would soon fill that living divine.

‘Twas observed by a few who the circumstance knew
That the health of the Bishop affected him so.
When the Bishop was well his spirits soon fell,
And accordingly rose when the Bishop’s was low.

Now often together, no matter the weather,
The Parson and Clerk would to Exeter go.
On purpose to see if the Bishop were free
From ev’ry complaint, or the opposite know.

Returning one night by the aid of moonlight
The Parson appeared so exceedingly sad:
For the Bishop was quite too unfav’rably bright
And a long way away seemed the prospect he had.

When the Clerk (that firm ally) said the Bishop would rally
The parson unluckily gave him a kick,
And the Clerk suffered much from that reverend touch,
But hoped he would yet be revenged by Old Nick.

His patience quite gone for a storm coming on,
The Parson becoming excited and warm,
Really wished that the devil would put things a bit level,
And also endeavour to quiet the storm.

Now in those days I know, for my granny said so,
A terrible wish went a terrible way,
And as certain as run does this globe round the sun,
A calamity not very far from them lay.

The moon that so bright, had been shedding her light,
Withdrew all at once without leaving a spark,
The consequence being, their pathway not seeing,
They soon got most hopelessly lost in the dark.

This obstacle met, their tempers upset,
‘Twas foolish of them everybody will say,
For they wished, so they said, the Bishop was dead,
And the devil to Teignmouth would show them the way.

While groping about in a mystified doubt,
The Parson observed with a heart full of glee,
A sort of reflection, which on closer inspection,
Really turned out a pipe-lighting peasant to be.

As the peasant drew near, the Parson smelt beer,
To his reverence rather offensive, still he,
without giving heed to the peasant’s rank weed,
Which at first nearly choked him, just said politely.

“We are sheep gone astray, and you I dare say,
Undoubtedly will condescend to aright,
Be Bethlehem’s star, for wherever we are
We wish to find shelter in Teignmouth tonight.

Said the peasant “ay, ay, I hope that ye may,
And so ye don’t knaw where exactly ye be?
Well, not very var vrom Dawlish ye are,
Only one way to Teignmouth I knaw, lemme zee.

If ye go by yon beach, ye quickly will reach,
A pathway to Teignmouth close round by the sea.
But don’t get too near, vor just about here
The devil indulges sometimes in a spree.

So of all things beware, of any fell snare,
The devil may weave thee thy journey to stem,
Main bitter he be against the clergy,
Two things he detests, holy water and them.

Now mad Deacon Stiles, had ridden for miles,
Only last week, a-hunting o’er heather and broom,
When over the rocks, in the shape of a fox,
The devil allured the poor man to his doom.”

Said the peasant “farewell”, after wishing in hell,
The devil was chained up securely just then,
Deceitful you see, for no peasant was he,
But the devil himself and no lover of men.

But of this in the dark, the Parson and Clerk,
Very grateful to him now their journey resumed;
They felt very glad when they should have felt sad,
which they would have done had they known they were doomed.

They had not travelled far, when over a spar,
They stumbled poor fellows, being very much worn,
They muttered at first, but then came the worst,
They swore such a swear as they should not have sworn.

They were once more en route when the Parson cried out:
By jove, there is Exeter’s palace, I see!
When Roger did stare, for truly ‘twas there,
Then marvelled they much what this wonder could be.

They stood on the lawn, the blinds were all drawn,
The place seemed deserted, oh, what could it mean,
But just now beside the ocean’s rough tide,
And now to be back where they lately had been.

They entered the hall, where fish great and small,
Swam by the walls against many a gem.
Great lobsters and crabs were chasing the dabs,
That peered o’er the furniture, grinning at them.

A servant came now, and with a deep bow,
Said the Bishop was dead as a herring’s that dried.
He had been eating fish, his favourite dish,
When a fishbone had stuck in his throat, so he died.

Overcome now with joy, said the Parson, “my boy,
I think I’ve already one foot in the See.”
When Roger replied, as he sank in the tide:
“Only one foot, you’re lucky – ‘tis all over me”.

Poor Roger was right, his was a sad plight,
The palace had vanished as quick as it rose.
While they were inside, rose higher the tide,
So a wave collared Roger and ended his woes.

“By the devil’s good grace, ‘tis a critical place,
The devil has got me upon a red tape.”
Quoth the Parson when he saw around him the sea,
Without any visible means of escape.

The sea rising higher, came nigher and nigher,
When the Parson was caught by another big wave.
And Exeter’s See for another would be,
When he and poor Roger had but a wet grave.

When morning appeared, a labourer neared
The place where the Parson and Clerk paid death’s tolls,
When he noticed a change, remarkably strange,
Two rocks had arisen containing their souls.

If any about this story should doubt,
To such I would recommend taking a ride
To Teignmouth sometime, where instead of a rhyme,
They can see the two rocks where their spirits reside.

Want to know more? Check out:

Parson and Clerk …..
Charles Causley …..
Thomas Aggett …..

Advertisements

Dorothy’s Diamonds

Dorothy's Diamonds

Dorothy’s Diamonds

Today it’s time for a mystery.

Continuing the walk along the sea wall from Teignmouth, about 100 metres before you reach Sprey Point you will see set into wall two diamond-shaped stones about half a metre apart. These are known as Dorothy’s Diamonds. Take the link after the poem for their story.

For now though there are some questions. Who was Dorothy? How did her ‘diamonds’ appear in the wall? Did she know Brunel? Did he allow the diamonds to be inserted into the wall and, if so, why?  Was there more to her relationship with Brunel than perhaps meets the eye? Where is the evidence?

Could this be the sort of poem that Brunel, under some romantic influence, could have written in one of his letters or diary? Or is it pure myth?

Dorothy’s Diamonds

Wouldst that thou hadst told me,
Dorothy, seated by thy well.
Wouldst that I had sat with thee,
enthrall-èd by thy spell.
Wouldst that thou durst hold me,
imprison’d in thy swell.
Wouldst that I had wished for thee
to share thy love and comfort me,
that our two lives, enshrin’d, would be
two diamond stones, our one enamour’d cell.

Want to know more?  Check out:

Dorothy’s Diamonds …..

All Aboard the Engine

Railwaycollapse at Dawlish

Railwaycollapse at Dawlish

Continuing the walk along the sea-front we follow the route of Brunel’s railway opened in 1846 and still running today, the only rail link into West Devon and Cornwall.

In February this year, massive storms battered the railway destroying the line at Dawlish and creating a huge landslip on the cliff below Woodlands Avenue, Teignmouth.

The result was the closure of the line for two months whilst 300 Network Rail engineers, known locally as the ‘orange army’, battled for over two months to overcome every obstacle ‘thrown at it by Mother Nature’.

Cliff slide Teignmouth

Cliff slide Teignmouth

On Friday 4th April the line was finally re-opened though completion of all the necessary repair work is likely to run well into 2015.

South Devon Singers were invited to take part in the celebrations of the official opening ceremony.  One of their members, Rachel Shearmur, wrote some clever lyrics to be set to the tune of Casey Jones to mark the events of the previous months and to pay tribute to the ‘Orange Army’ who had become a regular feature in Dawlish and Teignmouth.

Thanks to Rachel and the South Devon Singers for permission to reproduce that song here.

All Aboard the Engine!
(sung to the tune of “Casey Jones”)
(Rachael Shearmur, 2014)

Come, all you rounders if you want to hear
A story about some famous brave engineers
They worked all night and they worked all day
To mend the sea wall and restore the Dawlish Railway.
On a wild wet day in early twenty fourteen
The wind whipped the waves to heights not before seen
They tore at the rocks and they tore at the stones
And left the rail track suspended like a bare backbone.

Refrain:
Whistle blows – all aboard the engine!
There she goes! The guard has waved his hand.
Whistle blows – all aboard the engine!
And she takes her first great journey between sea and land.

The sea wall was breached and eighty metres were gone
The parapet was damaged all the way along
From Sprey Point to Smugglers’ Cove so ballast was torn
From its bed beneath the sleepers on that fateful morn.
A makeshift sea wall was soon put in place
Rubble-filled containers in the now empty space
But the sea was so ferocious it still wanted to win
And so peeled back their lids just like a sardine-tin.

As the weather calmed, so the work could begin.
Five thousand tonnes of concrete had to be brought in
Men in yellow, men in orange all around
As they fought to recover all the sea-claimed ground.
Two hundred men by day, one hundred by night
Clearing, cutting, heaving, hauling to beat the might
Of the tides whose angry tendrils had torn away
At the coast-hugging track of Brunel’s railway.

Just two months on from all the wind and the rain
The Dawlish line was opened up again
To shouts and cheers and cries of loud “Hurray!”
As trains could once more speed along Great Western Railway.
People came from far and people came from wide
On that early April day no-one was left inside
As they gathered around to give three big cheers
For the work of all the famous bold and brave engineers.

 

Want to know more? Check out:

Youtube performance …..
South Devon Singers …..
History of Railway …..

 

Fresh to Bleed

Red cliffs staining the sea

Red cliffs staining the sea

Today we beat the record for the age of verse associated with Teignmouth.

Leaving Jason’s Garden behind we make our way back down to the sea-front to continue the walk eastward, walking along the redstone cliffs that are characteristic of Teignmouth and this stretch of coast. The Breccia sandstone is 250 million years old and once lay on the equator.

It features as a reminder of an apparent bloody episode in Teignmouth’s history – the raid by the Danes, as the following couplet testifies:

 

“In memory whereof, the clift exceeding red
Doth seem hereat again full fresh to bleed.”

Does this couplet stand on its own? Or is it part of a larger work on the invasion of the Danes? When was it written? Who wrote it? ….. unanswered questions.

The earliest reference I have found to it is around 1630 when Tristram Risdon is estimated to have written his “Chorographical Description or Survey of the County of Devon” which remained unpublished until 1714. Risdon died in 1640.

To quote from Risdon’s manuscript (1811 edition):

“At West-Teignmouth, it seems, the Danes committed such horrid slaughter in 970, that the cliffs have, ever since, been stained with blood: they are ‘so very red, we are told, that they apparently memorize the bloodshed of those times’ …..

West-Teignmouth ….. is remarkable for the Danes’ first arrival for the invasion of this kingdom, a nation accustomed to piracy upon the coast of France and Normandy. Here, in the year 970, they landed out of their ships to discover the country, for a greater force to follow; whereof the king’s lieutenant more hasty than advised, demanded their name, and cause of coming and arrival; and attempting to seize on them by force, to present them to the king, was himself slain. After which they so prosecuted their begun attempt in this island, with unhuman and unheard of cruelty, even unto the Norman conquest, that the very cliff here red, seems yet to memorize the bloodshed and calamities of these times; according to these verses: In memory whereof, the clift exceeding red Doth seem hereat again full fresh to bleed.”

Researching this topic it is evident that there has been some dispute about whether and when it actually happened. Dates vary from 787 to 970 and the alternative location proposed is Tynemouth.

Want to know more? Check out:

A chorographical description or survey of the county of Devon, Tristram Risdon, 1811

Danmonii Orientales Illustres, or the Worthies of Devon, John Prince 1810

The History of Cornwall, Richard Polwhele, 1816

The Anchorage of Love

Jason's Garden - Reach for the Sky

Jason’s Garden – Reach for the Sky

The second poem about Jason’s Garden.

I knew Jason briefly when he was a teenager and helped to put up a large shed in our garden.  I was shocked when I heard the news about him, more so perhaps because we had been through a similar experience in our family.

In 1998 Jason Pope, aged 24, disappeared from the mine where he was working in Angola when it was attacked by rebels.

Jason’s family felt that the development of this garden would be a good way to commemorate Jason’s life.  It is opened to the public occasionally and is a haven of peace and a tribute of love.

The Anchorage of Love
(Keats Ghost)

Free yet anchored to the red-stone edge
where once bravado teetered.

I hear the plaintive buzzard mew.
Mobbed by dog-fight gulls
the buzzard cedes its airy space
and drops to tree-top sanctuary;
its whimpered baby-cry
the smothered echo
of a wail of years ago.

I taste the salty air
whipped from sea-spray
breasting sea-walls chains below;
the fear-bead salt of sweat
that slakes the cracks of desert lips
and lingers there.

I see beauty
growing from that sandstone soil
where morning dew dissolves
and glistens with the rise of sun
in tears of bloody red.

Through moon-arch window
I touch the bloom of sculptures,
rust-red, coppered, bronzed,
forged from ores where mine meets mind.

I smell the ozone, biting-fresh,
the yin of life that foetal curls
within the womb of cordite’s yang.

Free, I feel love’s anchors
in that garden on the red-stone edge.

Want to know more? Check out:

Jason’s Garden …..

Jason’s Garden

Jason's Garden

Jason’s Garden

We’ll continue on the detour for a little while up the cliff path, past the Compass Rose, until after a 100 yards or so we reach a gate, signed “Jason’s Garden”.

In 1998 Jason Pope, aged 24, disappeared from the mine where he was working in Angola when it was attacked by rebels.  Jason’s family felt that the development of this garden would be a good way to commemorate Jason’s life. It is opened to the public occasionally and is a haven of peace.

I have a couple of poems about the garden.  The first, by Jennifer Jenkins, reflects its aura of peace.  The second which I will post tomorrow is something I wrote after visiting the garden last year and explores the anchorage of love.

JASON’S GARDEN
(Jennifer Jenkins, 2009)

A place of peace
A place to pause
A place to ponder

The here and now and
All our yesterdays.

A garden for all seasons,
Made with thought,
Teamwork and tears,
Love and laughter,
Sweat and smiles.

Appreciation for
The joy of living and giving.
The pity of parting.
Those who have and those who have not.
How long is a life span?

Look around you – look and see,
Then come back and look again.
Pause – and see what can be done.
Ponder – on use and re use.
Trash becomes treasure,
Turn negative into positive.
Ask – it may be given.

Smell the fresh air – a myriad of scents
Feel the breeze.
Touch the textures of rock, wood and petals.
Feel the carved words as you read.

Or just listen.

Jason’s family garden – makes you think.

Want to know more? Check out:

Jason’s Garden

Eastcliff Car Park

Eastcliff House ... and carpark

Eastcliff House … and carpark

So we leave the Den and the Pier behind and head east, soon reaching ‘Old Maids’ Walk’ at either end of which once stood pairs of whalebone arches.

The path splits here and we are going to take a short detour following the left-hand path up towards Mules Park.  We stop on the bridge that crosses the railway and look inland to what is now Eastcliff carpark, a macadam desert.

Once it had grandeur, once it was Eastcliff house.  This poem by Tacy Rickard reflects its changing fortune and the changing times.

 

Eastcliff Car Park
(Tacy Rickard)

“Near the town of Teignmouth stands the beautiful residence of W.Tayleur, M.D.”
The Georgian gazetteer proclaims, and advises a walk along the cliff to view the sight.
“The admired and truly elegant mansion of the late Dr Tayleur… with grounds extending to the sea cliffs”,
state the sales particulars of 1837.
Bright walls gleamed among the clustered trees,
The sun burnishing rain-washed slates,
An iridescent lawn cloaking the slopes.

Now a tarmac shell,
Sterile,
Bounded by a scrap of wall,
An abandoned archway,
The railway gouging a wound through the land that once hemmed the cliff:
the complexity of the space erased.

Beneath the parking bays,
The footprint of the house.
Shadows of rooms, doorways, windows,
fragments of masonry entombed:
opaque glass slivers from once sun warmed windows,
splintered timbers crumbled to a dark stain.

And the remnants of past lives:
Shards of teacups from Victorian garden parties;
a rusted blade, dropped at the last pruning;
a tarnished coin fallen from a waistcoat pocket,
an earring spilt while the woman danced;
discarded marbles, cloudy, pitted;
a charred clay pipe in the turned earth.

Here were dinner parties where town worthies forged their bonds;
Here was birth, passion, betrayal, death.
The stones, once humming with human voices,
now shaken by the combusting throb of coach engines,
the thrust of the diesel through the opened tunnel,
Electronic pulse drumming.

Heedless shoppers spill down the slopes,
minds drifting away to the day ahead.
Eyes fast forward to the future.

The terrace where they sipped and dipped sun dappled appetisers,
lazily gazing across the rooftops,
the sun’s glow firing the sea,
the wave of a sail catching the eye,
the evening scents drifting by

Now
a place to alight and leave
but not to be.

Want to know more?  Check out:

Eastcliff House …..