Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Billie Millin / Dawlish Museum

I can't remember the precise date on this, but I visited Dawlish Museum some time mid-summer 2014, and a very good town museum it is.
      With 11 rooms over 3 floors, the museum is most famous for its display of Piper Bill Millins D-Day bagpipes. The displays in Dawlish Museum are regularly updated and depict life past and present in the town and notably tell the story of the February storm of 2014 which severely damaged the railway line. A vast archive of 100's of rare historical photographs can be seen in both album form or on the new library P.C.
      Children as well as adults are well catered for and there are many fun activities just for them such as the dressing up outfits and the Black Swan Trail. The Museum is entirely run by volunteers, is self funding and recently proudly gained official accreditation.
As may be well-known by now, the celebrated bagpiper and soldier William "Bill" Millin - the personal piper to Simon Fraser, 15th Lord Lovat, commander of 1 Special Service Brigade at D-Day - retired to Dawlish in 1988, and his bagpipes and an associated display form a central part of Dawlish Museum.
      Dawlish Museum's collections of topographic material, such as old photographs and postcards, are excellent. Although the Museum has a no-photo policy, I had a very useful discussion with Andrew Wright, one of the Museum volunteers, about the use of a virtually uncredited postcard image of the "Clerk" a.k.a. Shag Rock for a debunking pamphlet. (I'm now confident that the "Parson and Clerk" legend has no precursor or basis in folklore, but comes entirely from a very literary anonymous short story in the 1848 anthology Legends of Devon - one of a series of which a Notes & Queries correspondent described as: "each and all original whims of the moment, and not reproductions of popular legends").

- Ray

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