I PROMISED myself that I would not mention the dreaded C-word in this, my last column of this most distressing of years. I am fed up of writing about it and you, dear reader, I am sure are fed up of reading about it.
But as this is my last of 2020 – the year we all want to forget – it is perhaps appropriate to be thankful we live in a town which always rises to the occasion in times of adversity.
Lyme is not alone in this, I know. It is the British way. In cities, towns and villages all over this land, acts of kindness have dominated our television screens and newspaper columns. But many more have gone unrecognised and without publicity.
Here at LymeOnline we’ve done our best to chronicle the dozens of examples which demonstrate that Lyme is, and has always been, a caring town. There will be dozens of other examples which we have not recorded; people offering help and support but who wished to remain anonymous.
The problem of making a list of good deeds is that there will always be someone who is not mentioned who should be.
What follows is a few examples of the kindly acts or community initiatives on which we have reported throughout the year. You may know of many more. If so, please get in touch and we can express our thanks in print early in the New Year.
But let us remember, although all those aged 80 years and above who live in and around Lyme have received their vaccinations this week, this worrying situation is far from over.
We have to stay vigilant, probably for many months to come, until all who wish to have the vaccine have done so. And that means the support network set up in our town will continue its wonderful work.
So here are a few examples of the good deeds and novel morale-boosting ideas we have reported on since the town first went into lockdown in March. We acknowledge the following:
The wonderful nurses and medical staff in Lyme, Uplyme and Charmouth who have risked their lives protecting all and sundry from the epidemic.
LymeForward and all those shops and individuals who have contributed to helping to feed the needy through the Lyme Regis Foodbank.
The Lyme Community Support Group (set up originally by Victoria Cottle and Grace Herbert) for setting up a network of volunteers to help the vulnerable and those in need – work that continues to this day.
Sarah and Neville Causley for raising spirits during the lockdown by organising weekly quiz nights on social media and performing hilarious cabaret routines during the intervals.
Local chefs for preparing meals for schoolchildren, the elderly and NHS front-line staff, using the kitchen facilities at the Woodmead Halls.
The Denning family of Lym Close for their magnificent fundraising activities for numerous Lyme charities which have struggled through lockdown, especially brothers Joshua and Jacob.
Local photographer Rob Coombe who made a photographic record of Lyme in lockdown to publish a book in aid of the foodbank.
Steve Batey and Kirsty Roberts, of Fossil Food Catering, for providing free meals for NHS and front-line workers during the first lockdown.
The Lyme Garden Growers, launched by Rikey Austin with help from husband Paddy Howe, who have put their house on the market to be able to buy a piece of land to create a community garden and nursery to provide locally grown produce for those in need completely free of charge. Residents are being encouraged to grow their own fruit, vegetables and herbs and then donate or swap seeds and produce depending on the local need.
To all the above and many, many more whose efforts have gone unheralded, the town offers its gratitude and admiration. Remember, if you know someone or a group which deserves recognition, please let us know.
To them and all our readers, I hope you find some peace this Christmas – safe in the knowledge that the town’s support network will stay in place no matter how long it takes to defeat the unmentionable C-word.
The last of the great landladies of Lyme
I WAS so sorry to hear this week that Margaret Vincent, former mine host at the Pilot Boat in Lyme, had died, aged 92.
She was the last of the great landladies of Lyme and her passing will be especially be mourned by a generation of young men from my era who poured out their hearts over the bar at the Pilot when Cupid’s bow fell woefully short. Margaret was never adverse to a bit of match-making either.
Two years ago I wrote about Margaret reaching her 90th year and I can think of no better tribute than to repeat those memories here: “Belated congratulations to one of Lyme’s most popular landladies. Margaret Vincent, wife of Jack Vincent, who ran the Pilot Boat, one of the town’s most frequented hostelries (at least by me) for many years, recently celebrated her 90th year.
“When I was growing up Lyme had 11 pubs and we all had our favourites. Mine was definitely the Pilot Boat where, in his early days in Lyme, Jack also ran a garage at the back, converted to the Inn Plaice function suite when Bill and Caroline Wiscombe took over the pub.
“Margaret was the epitome of the glamorous pub landlady. Most nights she would make an entrance – and I mean an entrance – in the lounge bar (back bar to us locals), at around 9pm, immaculate make-up and dressed to the nines.
“This was in the days of the pub lock-in and Jack would ensure that non-locals emptied their glasses by 11.10pm and all the locals were ushered into the back bar where the real fun would begin. Nobody expected to leave before 2am and I can remember on one occasion leaving the Pilot with another regular, John Lloyd, at five in the morning!
“Although Jack detested juke boxes, Margaret loved to dance and would take a twirl with all us regulars.
“Jack and Margaret were big supporters of the regatta and carnival during my years as secretary and always put great effort into the fancy dress nights that were staged in all the pubs. Invariably they won the cup for the best decorated bar.
“There were two other permanent fixtures at the Pilot – pot man F-F-Fred and Jack and Margaret’s much loved dog Azul.
“Things occasionally got out of hand, especially if Axminster farmer Martin Bright was in town. He would invariably strip down to his underpants and run from the Pilot Boat to Cobb Gate and back just for the hell of it, his modesty often protected by two dinner plates, back and font.
“Jack and Margaret would often take a winter break to Majorca and I joined them on a couple of occasions. On one late night in Palma I can remember we all winced when Margaret grabbed an armed policeman in the street and started dancing with him.”
Rest in peace Margaret. We will never forget you. The funeral service will take place at 2pm at St Michael’s Parish Church on January 6.