APART from having the occasional pop at the council, over the years this column has been filled with memories.
Memories of growing up in Lyme in the 1950s-60s, memories of big and tragic events in the town and memories of its people past and present. Many of them unforgettable characters.
Memories, too, of the best of times in the newspaper industry. Sadly, those days are no more but new challenges present themselves in this digital age – hence the birth on LymeOnline.
The launch of our website, constructed in just two weeks, has been an unqualified success with thousands of readers having accessed our news pages.
In the first five days we uploaded 60 stories and features from Lyme, Charmouth and Uplyme, providing the most comprehensive coverage ever offered by any media in this area.
And so the website’s bed-fellow, the print version of LymeOnline, makes its debut today [Friday, February 23].
Over the next few days the paper will be delivered to easily accessible letterboxes as well as being available in a number of pick-up points around the town and in Uplyme and Charmouth.
Intially, we expect to put out between 3,000-4,000 copies.
We believe the print version is essential because of the high percentage of elderly people in the town who are not interested in receiving their news on a computer or mobile device. With a website and newspaper we reach all sections of the community.
With so many small towns having lost their traditional newspaper in recent times, this combination of hyper-local publishing is happening all over the country.
The government has also announced a review of Britain’s press in the light of impact of digital media. Prime Minister Theresa May has said the disappearance of so many local titles was “dangerous for our democracy”, describing local papers as a “huge force for good”.
So why the element of door-to-door distribution? We have learned in the last few years that in small towns like Lyme there is limited market for advertising and so it is important that those advertisers who are supporting us get the widest possible exposure in the town.
This is a new low-cost model which gives advertisers the maximum coverage at affordable prices.
Door-to-door distribution is not an easy process, especially in a town like Lyme with so many hills and houses with long drives.
We are in the process of building a team of deliverers and it will take a few weeks until we are able to get to the maximum number of homes. In Lyme alone there are about 1,800 letterboxes but some of these are not easily accessible. These include holiday homes which have to be eliminated from our rounds.
The enormity of trying to get to the maximum number of houses in Lyme came home to roost on Sunday when my daughter Francesca and I drove up virtualy every road in town counting the number of letterboxes and dividing them into rounds of 100.
I have to admit there were roads I had never been down and some housing developments I had never seen. My conclusion: there are some very fine homes in Lyme.
The industry norm for door-to-door distribution is between 8p and 12p per copy. We are offering 10p, described by someone on Facebook as “slave labour”. They have a point and we will be paying a bit more for the difficult rounds.
The task of editing both the website and the print version has been handed over to Francesca, who, with her sister Zoe’s help, built the website in just a week.
I shall be taking a back seat but contributing to both the website and paper with this column, the occasional feature and covering the sport.
Those two other old hacks with whom I have worked alongside for so many years – freelance journalist Geoff Baker and award-winning photographer Richard Austin – will also be contributing regularly.
The people of Lyme have demonstrated in recent weeks that they want a community newspaper – we will do our best to satisfy that demand with LymeOnline – on the web and in print.
The night the grandfather clock was smashed in the Royal Lion
PART of my duties when I first worked in a newspaper office on work experience at the Bridport News (circa 1963) was to type in the skittles results. No emails in those days, of course, so all the scores and league tables had to be typed in by hand.
As I lived in Lyme, legendary sports editor Roger Bailey always allowed me to type in the Lyme Regis Skittles League results.
Skittles was the main winter pastime for the sporting men of Lyme Regis. A couple of years after my work experience at the ‘Wip-Wop’, as the Bridport News was affectionately referred to, I had started work full-time as a reporter for the Express & Echo in Exeter.
By this time I was 17 years old and playing skittles regularly in Lyme after travelling home from Exeter on the train before the Bluebell Line was closed by the Beeching axe in 1966.
My mates and I, all around the same age, formed a team called ‘The Psychedelic Ravers’ (very appropriate for the 1960s) and we chose the Angel Inn to be our home alley. There was a good reason for this; landlord Ted Oaks turned a blind eye to the fact none of us were old enough to drink! I well remember my first pint at The Angel – a pint of Black and Tan for 1s. 1d – which soon ended up in the River Lym!
In those days there were also alleys at the London Inn (Church Street), New Inn (Broad Street), Talbot Arms (Uplyme), Coach & Horses (Charmouth), The George (Charmouth), Wootton Social Club and Rousdon Club.
Today there are only two alleys in Lyme – the Ship Inn and the Rock Point, which came later, as did the Pilot Boat which is now closed for a major refit. With exception of the Coach & Horses (also closed), the out-of-town alleys are still in use.
‘The Psychedelic Ravers’ were greeted with some dismay by those who had been skittling for years. To be honest we were a bit too loud for their liking and far too cocky when we won, a rare occasion. After a home game we would return to the public bar at the Angel where there was often a lock-in and a sing-song late into the night.
One of the biggest sporting social occasions in Lyme in those days was the Skittle League annual dinner, usually held in the ballroom at the Royal Lion where all the cups were presented. It was a men-only gathering – ladies skittles in Lyme came many years later.
The first dinner attended by ‘The Psychedelic Ravers’ was a real eye-opener, memorable because two well-known brothers went to fight before dinner was served, knocking over the grandfather clock, its internal workings spilling out onto the floor. Landlord Bob Dunne was not best pleased.
It was tradition at the dinner for all the cup winners to fill their cups with cocktails of strong liquor and then pass them to all those in attendance for a gulp. This resulted in a number of our team being carried home!
For games out of town we would hire Lou Wakeley’s taxi and ten bob in our pockets was enough to get us home, having paid our match fees and enjoyed a pasty and a few pints of Palmers Best.
All these memories came flooding back as I was typing out the Lyme Regis skittles results for the sport section on the LymeOnline website. The league may not be so well patrionised as it was in those days but it is still very buoyant with two men’s divisions and one lades’ despite fewer alleys. And some of the old team names are still competing – Trappers and Miscellaneous among them, the two teams I remember for whom the best skittlers in town were members.
‘The Psychedelic Ravers’ have long disappeared, although I hear the money collection box, made by carpenter Dick Hodder when he was an apprentice, is still in use. I’ve played occasionally over the years and one season back in the 1980s became doubles champions with Arthur Larcombe from Uplyme.
We all look back on our growing up years through rose-tinted glasses and as I do so I raise a glass to ‘The Psychedelic Ravers’ – Dave Reed, Dick Hodder, Michael Blackmore, Doug Rattenbury, Les Smith, Barry Rattenbury, Terry Holman, Alan Beviss and Howard Williams, sadly not all of whom are still with us.
A message from the Beans – we miss you already
I HAD a call this week from former
Lyme Regis resident and councillor Peter Bean.
Peter and his partner Dodie made many friends in Lyme where they lived for 22 years after retirement. In the end advancing years and the hills of Lyme did for them and they reluctantly decided to move to Farnham in Surrey to be nearer their family.
After making the decision, matters moved very quickly and the popular couple who lived in Charmouth Road never had time to say a proper goodbye to their many friends so Peter asked me to pass on their best wishes.
Peter came to Lyme with extensive local government experience in the Kent town of Dover where he served a term as mayor. That experience was put to good use when he won a seat on the town council and quickly rose to chairing the most influential committee at the Guildhall – Strategy and Policy, now Strategy and Finance.
If I recall, Peter was a strong debater and was not afraid of ruffling a few feathers from time to time. He had one very tetchy argument with PC Richard Winward over skateboarding on the seafront and the police’s reluctance to clamp down on it with no other facilities for the kids to practise their skills.
After he stood down from the council Peter would often pop into my office to enquire what was happening in the council chamber, usually prefacing his enquiry with the words “what have they done now”?
Peter and Dodie loved Lyme and will look back on their years here with great affection.
A chance to meet and remember
A NEW and much needed facility for the elderly of Lyme Regis was launched this week.
LymeForward has set up a memory café which will meet on a monthly basis at the football club. Similar organisations in Axminster, Seaton and Colyton are thriving and I’m sure the Lyme café will be very popular as well.
It gives the old folk of Lyme the chance to meet and remember on a regular basis, chat over old times and enjoy regular company.
At the football club we have our own memory wall (pictured) always of great interest to former players.