Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Mystery Devon images #2

Lynmouth, c.1900-1920
 Philip Willis, a correspondent, just sent another batch of images to the Devon History Society: early 1900s lantern slides for identification. The focus so far has been North Devon, but I did spot several taken on the Thames, and one was Niagara Falls!

So check out Mystery Devon images #2. A couple of images in the earlier set, Mystery Devon images, remain to be identified.

The above identified image struck me as particularly interesting, as an iconic location. It's at Lynmouth, looking down the East Lyn river. The building at far left, with the spiked gable, is the West Lyn Hotel; the one just its right, with the round-topped windows, is the Lyn Valley Hotel. Both are long gone; this was one of the central foci of destruction in the 1952 Lynmouth Flood. The confluence of the East Lyn and West Lyn rivers is more or less at the viewpoint of the image, Lyndale Bridge (see the similar Francis Frith image). Pre-1952, the West Lyn had been diverted through a culvert between the two hotels; part of the floodwaters took this route (see English Heritage image AA53/10717), while the bulk followed its older bed (see National Trust image), catching this part of the village in what has been called "a triangle of destruction".
Overnight, over 100 buildings were destroyed or seriously damaged along with 28 of the 31 bridges, and 38 cars were washed out to sea. In total, 34 people died, with a further 420 made homeless. The seawall and lighthouse survived the main flood, but were seriously undermined. The lighthouse collapsed into the river the next day.
- Lynmouth Flood / Wikipedia
It rather puts damage to Topsham's Goat Walk in perspective.

- Ray

Thursday, 20 February 2014

Salutation Inn revisited

In March 2011 - see Salutation Inn - I mentioned an obscure novel I'd discovered through reviews: Richard Gray's Salutation Inn (pub. Michael Joseph, 1941). Gray, I found, was a pseudonym of the artist Jasper Salwey (c.1883-1956) and one review said that the setting, the fictional Ilham, is "a place which can easily be identified as Topsham".

Yesterday, a pleasant follow-up: Ed Williams-Hawkes, owner of the real-world Salutation Inn, kindly lent me his copy of the novel he'd found at some expense on eBay (the book is very scarce). I just finished reading it, and there is no doubt about the identification.

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

The Three Old Maids of Lee

This is Old Maid's Cottage, Lee, near Ilfracombe - subject of a large number of historical postcards - which turned up as one of the Mystery Devon images locations in a recent Devon History Society post. The house still exists, as what looks like an extremely pleasant holiday rental.

Sunday, 16 February 2014

To Riversmeet: "Your care about your banks infers a fear"

View Larger Map

It's always interesting to visit new places, and sometimes they're only a stone's throw from familiar ones. Yesterday was a clear and bright afternoon, and I wandered out to take another look at the Goat Walk, damaged by the recent storms. On impulse, it being low tide, I decided to walk further along the shoreline by the wall skirting the grounds of the large houses at Riversmeet; this tract of land projects right out into the confluence of the Exe and Clyst, ending in a walled-earth pier.

Thursday, 13 February 2014

Ibong Adarna: Google Mistranslate

from Project Gutenberg Tagalog edition
Ibong Adarna is the title of a massively popular epic fantasy in the mythology and culture of the Philippines; it originally went under the snappy title of Corrido ng Pinagdaanang Buhay nang Tatlong Principeng, Magcacapatid na Anac nang haring Fernando at nang Reina Valeriana sa Caharian ng Berbania ("Corrido of the Traveled/Travailed Life of Three Princes, Sibling Children of King Fernando and Queen Valeriana of the Kingdom of Berbania"). Despite the Spanish names, it evidently pre-dates the Spanish Era in the Philippines.
One of the most beautiful tales which the Filipinos are wont to hear in their youth since time immemorial is the “Ibong Adarna”. This tale, or awit, is known all over the Philippines and was told vocally probably  centuries before it was anonymously printed in Tagalog in about 1860, thereafter appearing in the different vernacular dialects  — Visayan, Pampango, Ilocano and Bicol where its version varies. It is a four-thousand-one-hundred-thirty-six-line metrical romance in quartillas, of iambic tetrameter, on the life and adventures of the three sons of King Ferdinand of Berbania — one if not the most interesting of the fantastic tales in Philippine literature. According to the more reliable studies on the subject the tale is of Pre-Spanish origin and so is indigenous, although it is not free in its modern version from outside influence, like the other native corridos that were "derived" from European romances, that are greatly saturated with the "medieval flavor and setting of chivalry". It is comparable or possibly on a par with the world-famous Arabian Nights' Entertainments — a book included in the outside reading texts of both public and private schools. Although its language is not as literary as Florante at Laura, the work nevertheless indicates that it is the product of a pen of the stamp of a Balagtas, which in spite of not having the academic preparation of that prince of Tagalog poets, in fact it is like an uncut diamond which though it does not glitter as much as the cut and polished one, yet does not on that account cease to be a diamond.
- The Adarna Bird (A Filipino Tale of Pre-Spanish Origin Incorporated in the Development of Philippine Literature, the Rapid Growth of Vernacular Belles-letters from Its Earliest Inception to the Present Day), Eulogio Balan Rodriguez, General Printing Press, 1933.
See the paper ANG MGA INAGDAANANG BUHAY NG IBONG ADARNA: Narrative and Ideology in the Adarna's Corrido and Filmic Versions (Francisco Benitez, Department of Comparative Literature, University of Washington) for a detailed analysis of the story's content and cultural significance.

As you can gather from the synopsis at the Wikipedia page Ibong Adarna (mythology), it's a fairly convoluted story of the adventures of three princes, Pedro, Diego and Juan. The first two conspire against Juan, as they go on a quest to heal their ailing father (who has got ill from worrying about a dream in which two traitors conspire against Juan). The title refers to the Adarna bird that's central to the story and has properties probably unique  for a mythical creature. It has powers of magic and healing, but a dangerous aspect: petrifying poo! At the end of the day it sings seven songs that lull listeners to sleep, changing colour with each song, then defecates - and anyone incautious enough to be underneath is turned to stone.

Which leads to the Google Translate weirdness. "Ibong Adarna" means "Adarna bird" ("Adarna" is a proper name of, as far as I can tell, unknown etymology). But if you put it into Google Translate, it correctly detects the language as Filipino (the prestige register of Tagalog), but translates the whole phrase as "Toilet Slave" [or did so at the time of the screen shot below - it has now been fixed].

This is peculiar, to say the least. With the individual words, it translates "Ibong" as "Birds" (which is on the right track) and can't translate "Adarna" (which is expected). The problem is only with the phrase "Ibong Adarna". Is it a malicious mistranslation someone submitted to the database? Some inexplicably garbled allusion to the defecating Adarna bird? Or what? Knowing zero about the Filipino language and the workings of Google Translate, I can't fathom it. Any thoughts?

- Ray (finder's credits to Pinkie17 on Yahoo! Answers)

Addendum: Mark Liberman at the linguistics weblog Language Log kindly mirrored the topic - Really lost in translation - and the Google translation has now been fixed. The mystery still remains as to where the original translation came from.

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Mystery Devon images

This is purely a feeder for a post at the Devon History Society website, but I thought it would be of interest to local readers. Philip Willis sent the DHS some interesting images from a set of glass lantern slides c.1900-1920, asking if anyone could identify the locations. Many in his set are labelled Ilfracombe, and some - such as that below - I was able to identify straight away. Many others aren't as straightforward; thatched cottages, for instance, are ubiquitous around Devon. So if you fancy topographic puzzles, seee Mystery Devon images (you'd best hurry, as 13 out of the 15 have already been identified - but they're interesting pictures anyway).

Capstone Hill, Ilfracombe - image courtesy of Philip Willis
Ilfracombe, I have to admit, looks far more jolly a century ago, with its bandstands and promenade restaurant. It was then a boom resort, served both by railway (the Ilfracombe Branch Line) and ferries along the Bristol Channel.
View Larger Map
- Ray

Friday, 7 February 2014

Bright and Miss Follett: a Topsham courtship

Richard Bright (from Medical Portrait Gallery)
Browsing for history of the Goat Walk yesterday, I ran into a Topsham connection I never knew: the courtship of Richard Bright and Eliza Follett.

Richard Bright (1789 – 1858) was an eminent physician and an early pioneer in the research of kidney disease (Bright's disease - a historical classification of nephritis - is named after him). There's a chapter on him in the 1838 Medical portrait gallery. Biographical memoirs of the most celebrated physicians, surgeons, etc., etc., who have contributed to the advancement of medical science: see Richard Bright, M.D. F.R.S. Bright was married twice. His first wife Martha Lyndon Babington, died of childbirth complications in 1823. A few years later he courted a childhood friend, Eliza Follett, sister of the lawyer and politician William Webb Follett, and they married on 27th July 1826 (ODNB).

Follett Lodge, Ferry Road, Topsham
 The Folletts being a Topsham family, a deal of Eliza's courtship with Richard took place around Topsham, and their walks are recorded in the 1983 biography by Bright's great-great niece.
It is at Easter 1826 that we hear, in a letter written to his father, all about his visit to the Folletts at Topsham.

'Passage' (or Follett Lodge as it is known today) had been the family home since the first Folletts, natives of Normandy, had come to England in Henry II's time. Eliza's father, Benjamin Follett, was a retired captain of the 15th Foot Regiment and carried on the old family business as ships' chandler and timber merchant. He had married an Irish girl, Ann Webb of Kinsale, and they had a family of six sons and two girls.

'Goat's Walk' seems to have been Bright's and Eliza's favourite spot; it is often mentioned in Eliza's love letters. It was a narrow path along the water's edge. At high tide a vast expanse of water stretched before them, while at low tide the tortuous channel of the Exe was winged with sea birds plummeting down on to cushions of sea-pink. Here they would watch the bare-legged winkle gatherers, dressed in striped skirts looped to the waist. Their wind-ravaged faces arrested Bright's interested attention, and Eliza soon discovered it was the same when they met gypsies, or talked to her father's men in the timber yard. Exploring with him was a wonderful experience. He was always stopping to pick a flower, to identify the sound coming from a bush or to scoop up the clay where the river Clyst met the solid wall of the old Bridge Inn. Walking along the road where the Romans had marched, he would always find some evidence of their existence and of their battles.
- Dr. Richard Bright, (1789-1858), Pamela Bright, Bodley Head, 1983.
I guess you had to be there. Anyhow, this does show that the Goat Walk's existence as a path - and it seems its name - pre-dates the anecdote connected with its early 20th century upgrade to concreted form.

A later biography of Bright adds:
The wedding took place in the old church of St Marguerite [sic] at Topsham in July 1826. As with his marriage to Martha we have no surviving details of the ceremony nor the honeymoon.
- Richard Bright, 1789-1858: physician in an age of revolution and reform, Diana Berry, Campbell Mackenzie, Hugh L'Etang, Royal Society of Medicine Services, 1992 
- Ray

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Goat Walk damage

Further to the previous two posts: we took a walk this afternoon to have a look at the state of the Goat Walk, the concreted riverside path at the southern tip of Topsham. This morning with the tide up it'd been clear that something was amiss ...

... but a later look showed the extent of the damage. The path was exposed to the full force of the heavy seas coming upriver, which had ripped off large sections of the concrete capping revealing the clay and rubble underneath.

The storm had also collapsed the corner of the sea wall in the grounds of Riversmeet, the house at the southern tip of the Topsham peninsula.

The damage has been echoed at various coastal locations nearby, with flooding and a breach of the sea wall in Exmouth, and - most significantly for the whole South-West region - at Dawlish a section destroyed of the wall carrying the coastal main line railway.

These guys below, however, didn't seem to mind. Opportunistic feeders such as this robin and these turnstones no doubt found good pickings amid the debris.

Addendum: a spot of background. The concreted path dates from the first decade of the 20th century - some sources say 1908, others 1912. The standard story about the origin of the name - though the specifics vary - is along these lines:
This thoroughfare, about 5 feet wide, yields marvellous views in most directions, and is called Goats Walk. Apparently, at a council meeting, which was arranged to adopt a name for it, one of the older and wiser eldermen boldly said, "It baint be a road, it be more of a goat's walk". He wasn't kidding— and that's how it got its name, Topsham fashion.
p125, The Lost City of Exeter, Chips Barber, ‎Sally Barber, 1982.
I've always felt this smells apocryphal, and a while back I found a hint that the name was a pre-existing one for the route.
'Goat's Walk' seems to have been Bright's and Eliza's favourite spot; it is often mentioned in Eliza's love letters. It was a narrow path along the water's edge.
- p143, Dr. Richard Bright, (1789-1858), Pamela Bright, Bodley Head, 1983
Richard Bright is the famous physician (see Wikipedia) and "Eliza" is his second wife Elizabeth (née Follett), sister of the Topsham-born lawyer and politician Sir William Webb Follett.

- Ray

The morning after

Follow-up to "It was a dark and stormy night": I went out for a walk 8.30-9ish. There wasn't anything spectacular in the way of aftermath from last night's storm, but the wind and river were still pretty high. Ominously for many, waves were already starting to break on the lower roadways, and high tide isn't until about 10.30 (I imagine the water level is increased further by the high rainfall bringing extra floodwater down the Exe). People are saying there has been some damage to the Goat Walk, the riverside raised path at the southern tip of the peninsula Topsham is on. I couldn't see, because it too was already semi-submerged.

Looking along Goat Walk
Looking along Goat Walk
North Quay
Topsham Quay
The Strand by Hannaford's Quay - the stuff on the road is shingle
Looking down to the Underway - submerged last night
compare to above
Update: 10.30am. I'm pleased to say that the wind has dropped significantly toward mid-morning. The tide was nominally the same as last night's - but with the calm and lack of other excacerbating effects, the river level was high but harmless.

High tide at the Underway
But see the following: Goat Walk damage.

- Ray

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

"It was a dark and stormy night"

The Underway
A combination of spring tide, low pressure, and strong onshore wind brought unusually high river level this evening, with waves breaking over the Underway below Topsham church, and flooding of parts of the riverside streets, where the houses were sandbagged. Clare and I went out to join others in gawping at the spectacle; we've never seen the river like this before.

The Underway

Ferry Road

The mini-roundabout by the Lighter Inn
The Strand
The Strand by Hannaford's Quay, where men were engaged in sweeping
water away from the gates of courtyards below street level. I thought of
Mrs Partington and her mop.
See The morning after for follow-up.

- Ray