Monthly Archives: January 2015

Ode to an Oyster

Pacific Oysters

Pacific Oysters

Oyster farming has been part of the life of the River Teign since the seventies and records show that 350,000 oysters were harvested in 1987.

Ode to an oyster was written by Bob Freshwater to celebrate the Teignmouth Oyster and some of the characters, past and present, who earn a living on/from the river. Bob has included local characters, some who are no longer with us (Jack the Hat) but others well known on the river.

It is one of the repertoire of the Back Beach Boyz.

Ode to an Oyster
(Bob Freshwater)

I’m Sid the Pacific Oyster and I live up on the Teign
I get a good soak twice a day which helps to keep me clean
Along comes Barry Sessions with his sea boots rolled and rank
He picks up a couple of my mates and bungs them in a tank

I’m Sid the Pacific Oyster, not common French or Pearl
Some days I’m feeling blokey, some days more like a girl
I used to live at Arch Brook, now I live on Gasworks Bank
It’s safe from Pilot Flemming when you sit out on the flank

I’m Sid the Pacific Oyster, some folk call me a spat
I’m smaller than Bill Hook’s thumb, or slightly more than that
I’m bundled in a plastic pouch and laid out on the trestle
We have to keep our shells closed to every powered vessel.

I’m Sid the Pacific Oyster, not liking months with Rs
I lounge about on a pallet, watching trains and cars
As Jack the Hat rakes cockles or picks mussels in his pot
And Pete Full lifts his boulders to see what crabs he’s got.

I’m Sid the Pacific Oyster, some folk think we taste weird
Just like Old Wes Highgate, he with the long grey beard
We watch him on the Salty, dragging up a hefty seine
And pulling on yellow oilers as it lashes down with rain

I’m Sid the Pacific Oyster, I’m pretty self-contained
My organs hold both eggs and sperm, I have to be restrained
I spew my eggs into the tide and wave and watch them go
Thousands of Pacific Oyst’lets, for River Teign Shellfish Co


Three years on the river Teign, pure quality of life
‘Til along comes Crabshack Simmonds with a Shucking knife
With ice and a slice of lemon or a squirt of Tabasco sauce
Sid the Pacific Oyster’s life was nature’s tour de force

Want to know more?  Check out:

Oyster farming on the Teign …..
Back Beach Boyz …..
The Oystercatchers Cafe …..

Teignmouth Muse

Jackie Juno

Jackie Juno

Today’s poem comes from Jackie Juno, the Grand Bard of Exeter (Caer Wyse). It is an interesting amalgam of issues of personal, societal and environmental health set in the context of Teignmouth and observations of a seaside town.

According to Jackie it is “To be read in East End accent. Cos that’s how I heard it in me head when I was writing it. Which proves it was purely channelled, cos I don’t usually talk like that. Innit.”


Teignmouth Muse
(Jackie Juno)

2 seagulls sittin on the roof of a van
they look like they own it, them and their clan
we’re at the seaside today, gonna have us some fun
we got spades sand and sarnies, sunblock and sun
don’t care if my mobile is out of range
we’re makin good use of the climate change
(which of course is a complete and utter bummer)
but it’s only April and it’s just like summer

2 kids and 2 ice-creams can sure make a mess
I’m lookin over the river to Shaldon Ness
this beauty I find really hard to express
but most of the people they couldn’t care less
I tell ‘em the environment is under duress
but they say all that info just adds to their stress
yet still I continue, though their buttons I press
their apathy gets to me, it makes me depressed

2 dogs sniffin at each other’s arses
seems to be the way in which they make passes
they don’t have a concept of what status or class is
just shows up society, yeah that’s what a farce is
have you got the right shorts shoes bikini sunglasses
seems them people need a spiritual and emotional catharsis
to get over themselves, and get with the beat
find their head find their heart find their hands find their feet

2 pigeons struttin and peckin on the beach, ya
would rather see a shark or a deep sea creature
but they ain’t yet a familiar feature
of Teignmouth, (though I do think they’ll eventually reach here)
with the global warmin yeah, that’ll teach ya
don’t wanna go over the top like a preacher
but I feel sufficiently moved to make this speech, yeah
…should I be more philosophical, like Nietsche?

2 pigeons have fled now, they’ve spotted a kestrel
my picnic is pitiful, it’s low in cholesterol
cos my levels are high, it’s kind of ancestral
now I only eat chocolate when dangerously pre-menstrual
otherwise I try to be fit and healthy
but the better the food the more you gotta be wealthy
live in Knightsbridge, Hampstead, Kensington or Chelsea;
or be good at shoplifting, and being generally stealthy.

2 kids swathed in sunblock to prevent skin cancer
but I really don’t think that that is the answer
cos the sunblock itself is carcinogenic
so you gotta buy products that are natural and organic
but they’re dead expensive, it’s not financially viable
so you think about nickin it, but then you’ll be liable
to have your collar felt by the long arm of the law
and the gap is STILL growing between rich and poor

When life’s not fair it can make you illegal
banged up in a cell, you would think of a seagull
flying free in the sky – not earthbound like man

2 seagulls sittin on the roof of a van……
that’s how this poem ends, it’s also how it began.


Want to know more?  Check out:

Jackie Juno …..

Teignmouth and Shaldon

Wild Flower - a Book of Love Poems

Wild Flower – a Book of Love Poems

The Late Mr Arscott completes the current section on ‘people’.  I’ll be returning to one person in particular – John Keats – later with a collection of poems about him and his life.

In the mean time ….. this is the 100th post.  I can’t believe that I have reached that magical number, a century of poetic postings associated with one town, Teignmouth, and its surroundings.  I wonder if any other town in the country could boast such an anthology …. and still they come.

I’m returning to the estuary for the next section and also moving across to Shaldon at the head of the river on the other side.  Shaldon Ness mirrors the Parson and Clerk as the two iconic headlands on this stretch of coast and has already featured in a couple of poems.

You may be glad to know that I’ve left the 19th century behind for these next few postings!  This first poem is from ‘Wild Flower‘, a book of love poems by Michael William Worley.

Teignmouth and Shaldon

Shyly the big boats float silently into Teignmouth harbour under
cover of darkness to unload their wares sent from foreign shores.
Surprising children the following day by how stealthily they arrive
and depart all of course governed by the tides.
This idyllic spot discovered in childhood and remembered forever.

Shaldon and Teignmouth are like two siblings, brother and sister.

Teignmouth, the noisy brother, flambouyant, worldly, ever changing,
cosmopolitan and outrageous.
Shaldon by contrast, the quieter sister, modest but attractive,
peaceful and strong in character.
Complementing each other but keeping a thoughtful distance.

Their maritime history is unique, spanning millennia.
Sitting comfortably either side of the estuary.
Happy childhood memories of these two places remain vivid in my mind’s eye.

As a lad this annual pilgrimage to Devon with my parents easily
outweighed favourites such as Christmas or birthdays.
Tasting the salt on my lips as we approached the coast, the first
view of the ocean, oh what joy!

The sun shone endlessly or so it seemed.
Each day was an adventure, fishing, rowing and
the delight of my trips back and forth on the ferry between
my two favourite places on god’s earth.

The Late Mr Arscott

History of South Devon Hunt

History of South Devon Hunt

Today’s post may have tenuous links with Teignmouth but they are of interest as part of the history of the time.  Once again I am indebted to Stuart Drabble for this poem. Stuart is a local historian and aficionado of all things George Templer.

This Templer poem is about a “Mr Arscott” who hunted in South Devon. There are the obvious connections that we have already seen through George Templer; and the members of the Hunt would have taken part in society functions of the day in Teignmouth – the Balls and Theatre.

Who the actual ‘Mr Arscott’ is is unclear but the name seems to have been a common one of this area – James Arscott is mentioned on the list of men who fought at Trafalgar (on the board on the wall of the Ship Inn). Thomas Arscott and another James Arscott (brothers) of Teignmouth, sons of a Teignmouth doctor Thomas Arscott, were both naval officers. Most likely though is a ‘Mr Arscott of Tetcott’ who kept hounds and is apparently immortalised in an old Devonshire ballad

Whoever he was, George Templer wrote these few lines in his memory.

The Late Mr Arscott

New to my sight thou black unwelcome leaf,
I know thee now, pale harbinger of grief
Ungraced by sportive scene or lyric lore;
Thy silence whispers – Arscott is no more!
The hand is motionless that loved to trace
The hard-earned glories of the daily chase!
The tongue that cher’d us with the death-note shrill,
And charmed us at the festive board, is still!
The wit that in meridian splendour shone
All but the memory of his worth is gone!

Want to know more?  Check out:

Arscott connections …..
George Templer …..


The shadow of Count Orlok climbing up a staircase

The shadow of Count Orlok climbing up a staircase

There have been a few poems so far about myths and legends associated with Teignmouth so what is the connection between Vlad the Impaler and our town?!

Vlad the Impaler, characterized as a tyrant who took sadistic pleasure in torturing and killing his enemies, was Vlad III, Prince of Wallachia and a member of the House of Draculesti. He took the patronymic Vlad Dracula and through this name became the inspiration for Bram Stoker’s 1897 gothic horror novel ‘Dracula’.

In 1922 Enrico Dieckmann released the German expressionist horror film ‘Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror’. It was an unauthorized adaptation of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, with names and other details changed because the studio could not obtain the rights to the novel (for instance, “vampire” became “Nosferatu” and “Count Dracula” became “Count Orlok”).

It is symbolised by one iconic scene -the shadow of Count Orlok climbing up a staircase. Where can you find a representation of this iconic scene? Street art on a wall in Somerset Place.

This post is another linkage of poetry with street art.

(Keats Ghost)

Curfew your husbands, curfew your wives.
the curse of Count Dracula now has arrived.
Down Sun Lane and Osmonds and Clampet he jives
seeking dark niches where demons will thrive;
satiated, at sunrise he returns to his hive.

At sunset your sons should be kept safe and sound,
for the blood-letting vampire’s now to be found.
He lurks in the murk where the shadows abound.
He creeps out at night when the sun goes down,
haunting the lanes of old Teignmouth town.

Make sure your daughters are secure in their beds.
Nosferatu is prowling; he yearns to be fed.
He’d bite and he’d drool as you slowly bled,
joining the ranks of the living dead …..

Aaaaaaaaaargh! ……….. CUT
OK, imagination too active, forget what I’ve said,
this graffiti art shadow has messed with my head.

But just in case …………

Don’t wander at night-time after the gloam
for in ebony darkness the vampires roam.
But if you’ve the need to depart from your home
carry mirror, stake and a mobile phone
to drive them back, pierce their heart
and tweet their dying moan.

Ne Sit Ancillae

The Brown Portrait by Sir William Richmond, in the Library, Clifton College

The Brown Portrait by Sir William Richmond, in the Library, Clifton College

This is an intriguing poem today. Thanks to Tacy Rickard for finding it whilst looking at Edmund Gosse’s links with Teignmouth. She found mention of him and the poet T E Brown in a 1930s review of a book about Devon, which in turn led to the poem.

The poem is intriguing because it has an unusual style for its period, the second half of the 19th century. T E Brown was a Manx man and his more important poems are narrative, and written in the Anglo-Manx dialect, with a free use of pauses, and sometimes with daring irregularity of rhythm.

His link with Teignmouth is unclear although he was a master at Clifton College, Bristol for many years and would likely have travelled the West Country during his time there – he was a great walker.

A ‘slavey’ is a female general servant, in particular a maid of all general work in a boarding house. I wonder if he felt some empathy with the ‘slavey’ since he himself suffered deep humiliation in his role as a ‘servitor’ whilst at Christ Church, Oxford – a servitor was an Oxford undergraduate performing menial duties in exchange for assistance from college funds.

The poem’s title is borrowed from the title of an Ode by Horace.

(T E Brown)

Poor little Teignmouth slavey,
Squat, but rosy!
Slatternly, but cosy!
A humble adjunct of the British navy,
A fifth-rate dabbler in the British gravy —
How was I mirrored?
In what spiritual dress
Appeared I to your struggling consciousness?

Thump! bump!
A dump
Of first a knife and then a fork!
Then plump
A mustard-pot! Then slump, stump, frump,
The plates
Like slates
And lastly fearful wrestling with a cork
And so I thought:—
” Poor thing
She has not any wing
To waft her from the grease,
To give her soul release
From this dull sphere
Of baccy, beef, and beer.”

But, as it Napped,
I spoke of Chagford, Chagford by the moor,
Sweet Chagford town. Then, pure
And bright as Burton tapped
By master hand,
Then, red as is a peach,
My little maid found speech —
Gave me to understand
She knew “them parts”;
And to our several hearts
We stood elate,
As each revealed to each
A mate —
She stood, I sate,
‘ And saw within her eyes
The folly of an infinite surprise.

Want to know more?  Check out:

T E Brown …..
Other Poems of T E Brown …..
The Horace Ode …..

Teignmouth News

audi vide taceAlmost 100 poems on “Teignmouth in Verse” and still a few to come. So what will the New Year bring? I’m taking a brief detour from the theme of ‘people’ for this poem by Don Pearson which presents an apocalyptic view – a reminder of all the troubles in the world today and how it might be if the tables were turned, lest we forget.

Happy New Year everyone!

Teignmouth News
(Don Pearson)

(For all of us for whom such news has always been from somewhere else)

Reports are coming in from the UK that a large number of insurgents were killed today in an air strike. The strike took place on Teignmouth in a hitherto calm area of England, two hundred miles West of London.

An Allied spokesman dismissed claims that those who died were civilians, saying, “We had indisputable intelligence of a meeting of insurgents and carried out a precisely-targeted strike on their position.”

Elsewhere in Britain, a suicide bomber, thought to be a Scot, killed more than sixty people at a shopping centre on Tyneside.


When the curfew was lifted
We gathered in “Ye Olde Jolly Sailor”,
The Jolly to locals,
Close to the wrecked TAAG Gallery,
Hit by a stray “precisely targeted” bomb.

Maybe more, still under the wreckage of St. Michael’s.
The “insurgents” had only been
A couple of local boys
Who brought in cheap tobacco
In the age-old trade.
Their rivals in the feud
Had expected them to get
A bit of a kicking.

I watched the eyes of those around me.
In the mirror, my own reflection
Showed a face I hardly recognised,
Telling the same story.
This must be stopped.

Earlier, when the fires had subsided
And it had seemed that it might be safe,
I walked down the hill towards the smoke
That obscured the sea and the Ness.
I cut through the lane from Ferndale
Past the brambled hedge
Half-hiding the old mulberry tree,
And entered Paradise Road
With its mature gardens,
The tulip tree, the tamarisks
And the rubble where my friends had lived
And which now muffled their dissent.
On Lower Brimley, I avoided the chalk circles
Around dog-muck on the pavement,
Drawn by a thoughful walker.

As I crossed the railway,
French Street was burning again
After more than three hundred years.
I glimpsed a tank driving
The wrong way along Regent Street
Towards the Triangle.

A group of soldiers huddled
Around a brazier by the station,
Sheltering from the rain and the scything wind,
Wary, frightened even, but determined.
To them, we were just “Brits”.
All of us were a risk.
None of them spoke English
And I did not understand the shouts
But the pointed rifles and gestures told me
To stand some way off in the car park,
Take off my overcoat, turn around,
Then lie spread-eagled in a puddle.
Two of them came over slowly,
One aiming a gun at my head
While the other searched me.
Young Mary Clayton’s body lay nearby
Surrounded by the wreckage of her shopping
That might have been a bomb.
I had felt sorry for these lads
So far from their home,
These peacekeepers in a land
Where war had been a distant memory.
They had expected a welcome,
Had received it in some of the cities,
Back in the early days.
I was turned back
But I could not have gone on.

On the end of Station Road
The ex-servicemen’s club and the hair stylist’s had gone.
Part of one wall remained of
The Masonic Hall
With a blasted doorway,
Above it inscribed, “Audi Vide Tace”,
“Listen, see, be silent”.
The rest of the quotation from Latin,
“if you wish to live in peace”
Had not been written over the threshold
In any language.
I could see the charred ruins
Of people whom I must have known.
Scraps of bloodied fabric
Lay in the road and
A single severed finger
Rolled in the wind,
Its ends pointing
To two places of worship
On opposite sides of the street.

There are reports that three Allied soldiers were killed today by a roadside bomb near Teignmouth in South-West England.

28th August 2008