WITCHES, POACHERS, OGRES, DESPERADOES & THE DANGERS OF HYGIENE

TIM SANDLES, author of the website Legendary Dartmoor, has just published his quarterly review and it’s full of fascinating stuff. The Church Music is an account by a magistrate of a case in 1868 in which two men were accused of the theft of church books  on the evidence of a “wise woman” who had read their guilt in “the cards”. Night Stalkers relates a typical poaching case, Bovey way, in which three men were fined £5 each for taking rabbits from a landowner’s warren – about eight times their annual wages. Other stories underline firm local beliefs in ogres and witchcraft, persisting into the 20th century.

Get into it all through Locked Up & Helpless HEREa nice Sunday Pictorial exclusive from 1923 in which an old lag recalled the agony of trying to follow the 1914-1918 conflict from inside Dartmoor Prison. Short extract …

“The first faint echoes of the political explosion in Europe had drifted to our ears, but the lack of definite news was maddening; the grey, unresponsive prison walls seemed to mock our helplessness. It was terrible to know that while we were there like rats in a trap the great Powers were at the cross-roads of peace and war, and history was being made.

“Prayers for peace were offered daily in the prison chapel, but at length the news drifted in that Britain and Germany were at grips. The effect on the lags was extraordinary – one and all clamoured to be allowed to do their bit. The convicts, through the prison Governor, petitioned the Home Secretary for permission to go to the front. But the answer was: ‘Serve your sentences first.’

“The war became the one absorbing topic of conversation among the lags, and every scrap of news bearing on it was passed round the prison and snapped up hungrily. Never before had the rule of ‘no talking among prisoners’ been broken so much, and the tea gardens’ – our name for the punishment cells – were always full. Scraps of newspapers were smuggled in and passed from hand to hand until they were tattered and torn. To us they were as diamonds to a covetous woman. The Governor raved at the defiance of the rules. To be caught with a portion of a newspaper meant heavy punishment, and strenuous efforts were made to stop the trafficking. We were constantly being searched without warning.

“I have only known convicts at Dartmoor to be unanimous in blessing the Governor on one occasion! That was when permission was given for the priest to read some war news to us in chapel on Sunday afternoon. Never was a chapel service looked forward to so eagerly.

“There were separate chapels for Protestants and Catholics, and convicts of the different denominations would exchange the news they had heard. The Catholic priest was a very slow reader, and as the telling of the war news was limited to certain times, the Catholics had to be content with half the news. The number of conversions to the Protestant faith at Dartmoor during the war years was remarkable.”

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PS: Dartmoor National Park is organising a series of online tours and talks, designed for home learning, from July 20 to August 16 at https://www.dartmoor.gov.uk/dartmoorconnections

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FOOTBALL CLUB BATTLES ON

Annual meeting of the Horrabridge Rangers Sports Association took place outside the Fillace Park pavilion on Monday, with the playing fields in the background looking especially fine – after aeration for better drainage and a season abruptly ended halfway through. About 20 football coaches and organisers turned up to hear that they were still financially sound and had enough interest for 15 teams and playing groups from five-year-olds up to over-50s.

Normal fixtures are still some way off but training is now just about possible – and some captains are planning to start, despite an onerous list of anti-virus precautions required by the FA.

Club secretary Ian Mulholland said they had held together a fairly full coaching team but still needed volunteers from the community for admin and support work. Contact him on 0776 498 3441 or hrsa@hotmail.co.uk

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POLICE NOTES

After a flurry of activity in the village last Sunday morning, the police recorded:

Called to Walkhampton Road, Horrabridge, at around 6am on 5 July with a report that a man had been assaulted. A man in his 40s was taken to hospital by ambulance where he was treated for a broken nose, cuts and bruises. A 16-year-old boy from Tavistock has been arrested on suspicion of assault causing grievous bodily harm with intent, possession of cannabis, and possession of an offensive weapon. He’s been bailed until August 3 pending further enquiries. A 16-year-old boy from Horrabridge has been arrested on suspicion of assault causing grievous bodily harm and bailed until August 3 pending futher inquiries.”

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EDITOR’S REPORT

The Horrabridge Times is a bit sketchy this week, owing to technical problems meaning we have to go down for repairs for a day or two. But last week we clocked up nearly 800 readers, making a total of more than 1400 different check-ins over a month. Thanks to all of you.

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MUSINGS FROM THE SHED

Here in The Shed, where old men gather to exchange talk of the world, we enjoyed reprobate Mancunian Shaun Ryder commenting on a public information film about how to use washbasins in public toilets, on Celebrity Gogglebox. Up to the 1980s, said Shaun, nobody bothered. And we were reminded that a urinal was often just a wall, a gutter and a drain, and a cold tap stand was a luxurious extra.

Some parts of the world, it stayed like that much later and the locals were baffled by tourists shrieking about the lack of hot water, mirrors and soap. In rural Spain and Greece, as in old England, a public toilet was a place to shoulder your way in, do your business and back out, not for a wash and brush-up.

As we have all discovered, even in our own bathrooms, sensible hand-washing requires a lot of logic, time and towels, if it is not to spread more germs than it washes away. It is not touching your own body that spreads viruses, it is damp hands sharing taps and doors. And that is the problem all toilet authorities are wrestling with.

Taking the blooming doors off might be a good start? And what about paying some of our poor struggling pubs to keep their facilities open with an attendant on hand to ensure good practice? Dartmoor NPA, for one, spends plenty on worse ideas.

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allfornow …

About the editor 382 Articles
Editor of The Horrabridge Times.