151st Annual Conference, Kingsbridge 2013

The Devonshire Association’s 151st conference and annual general meeting (7-9 June, 2013) was held in Kingsbridge. It was a friendly and sociable affair which was enhanced by the unusually kind weather we had. It started in the King’s Arms, but the doors of this establishment in the car park and in the main street were not open on time. This provided us with a laugh since a young lady subsequently opened the front door and smilingly invited us to go through the bar and then up the stairs, at the top of which was a large door prominently marked ‘NO ADMITTANCE.’ She told us to push that door open since behind this was our evening venue. Many of us wondered whether this was an instance of a unique South Hams sense of humour! Despite this alarming start, the President’s Reception was held there in the presence of the Mayor of Kingsbridge, followed by a public lecture by Robert Waterhouse on ‘Kingsbridge – a medieval market town’.

On the following day, the Conference proper was held at the Methodist Church Hall and a wide range of interesting papers were presented which showed newcomers that we are an organisation with diverse interests and expertise. Two of these sessions showed that Kingsbridge is not and was not merely a quiet backwater for tourists.

John Cole’s appreciation of the poetry of our late Vice-Chairman Anne Born was enlivened by The Company of Poets who read selected passages from her various works. Ann Born was a polymath, who published literature and history, as well as translating literature from Scandinavian languages. As well as all of this, she was also an active member of our Association. She was a resident in nearby Salcombe for nearly thirty years until the end of her long life in 2011.

Colonel George Montagu featured in another talk on a local personality. His private life was what might be expected of a minor Georgian aristocrat. But he developed a great interest in and knowledge of bird life. He settled in Knowle House in Kingsbridge and had a large pond created which he called a ‘duckery’. He introduced unusual water fowl which he observed for their appearance and habits, but above all he noted which could breed with which and hence their species. He also published the first ornithological dictionary in Britain. For these activities, he was eminent enough to be elected as a Fellow of the prestigious Linnaean Society of London. The Montagu’s Harrier was named in his honour.

The business of the AGM was accomplished efficiently and with a little humour. The outgoing President, Peter Beacham, was thanked for his contribution to the Association during its anniversary year, and his successor, Andrew Cooper, inducted.

Sunday excursions choices were to Prawle Point (geology/entomology); Start Point Lighthouse; Slapton Ley; the Devon Rural Archive Library and Shilstone House, Modbury; and the Cookworthy Museum, Kingsbridge. After the visit to the museum, attendees sat in the garden there and had a Devon cream tea. This made a popular and unforgettable sociable end to the Conference.

Geoff Doye & Tony Buller
(Parts originally published in DA News, Autumn 2013)