Torquay 3rd April 2004
On a blustery April day members gathered at Torre Abbey Historic House and Art Gallery in Torquay for what was to prove a most enjoyable and interesting day including the freedom to explore the Abbey and the Art Gallery.
The lecture room was located at the top of the building and it was difficult to tear ourselves away from the art and exhibits encountered on the upward journey to our coffee and biscuits and to choose our seats.
The first talk was Lighthouses from the inside given by former offshore lighthouse keeper Gordon Partridge. His audience was enthralled by his stories of the changes and experiences over his long career. His talk covered the traditional method of lighthouse keeping and moved through the innovations which have resulted in unmanned lighthouses visited very infrequently to clean the lights, by way of hair-raising events involved in transferring between lighthouse and ship or lighthouse and helicopter. He included a rather funny story of Ian Botham’s attempt to live in a holiday home close to a lighthouse! [Ask one of the many members who attended if you wish to hear the full story].
Our second speaker, Terry Pearson gave an intriguing presentation entitled the History of the Mermaid. From her first encounter with a figurative mermaid following through to her international search to discover the historical and cultural background to legends, stories, carvings, sculptures and pictures of mermaids Terry Pearson’s passion for her subject was obvious. She produced a large number of captivating slides to accompany her diverting talk which illustrated her knowledge of her subject, and the widesweep of the historical period covered was very impressive.
Lunchtime saw some of the party walking to a local hotel for lunch, while the rest of us visited the Torre Abbey tearooms and further explored the Art Gallery and house.
The afternoon saw our third presentation originally entitled Torbay and the Great Blockade of Brest in the Napoleonic Wars by our fellow member and naval historian Malcolm Rae. In the event Malcolm covered Torbay in greater depth. His riveting description of events of that time and of the naval strategies employed during this most eventful period was widely appreciated and brought a host of questions from his audience, while those of us unfamiliar with the intricacies of these actions began to understand just what was attempted and achieved in this era.
From the responses and questions of the audience it was clear that everyone had very much enjoyed and appreciated the three excellent speakers. Judith Godfrey is to be congratulated for the venue, the presenters and a most well-organized and successful day.
Reported by Jean Jenkinson
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