Sid Russell

Sid was a real wit and always had a smile on his face and a joke on the tip of his tongue.

One morning when he and several of his colleagues were waiting for the transport to pick them up from the village to take them to work, down through the village came a stranger. With his brief case, umbrella and very smart clothes, he looked completely out of place in Berrynarbor at that time. He knocked on the door of one of the cottages.

"T'is no good knocking on that door," piped up Sid. "Theyem all out except for the clock and even ee be gwain!"

At this remark, Sid and his fellow workers fell about laughing - it's not what you say but the way that you say it! The poor man, thinking he had met all the village idiots in one go, turned about and beat a hasty retreat.

Sid and his Wife Flo


One lovely summer evening, the lads from the village including Gerald and his cousin Frank Huxtable, known as 'Laddie', and any visitors who wanted to join in, were playing a game of cricket in the field opposite Middle Lee Farm. As was usual, a small group gathered to watch and they were joined towards the end by William Draper or 'Muxey' as he was known. Muxey was a very good gardener and used to till the land up the lane behind Middle Lee, now known as Thirkles Field. He used donkeys to do the ploughing.

On this occasion Muxey was carrying a basket in which he had some of his produce and the vegetables were admired by everyone gathered.

A few days later Gerald met up with the very chipper Frank who told him he had won first prize at Combe Martin Horticultural Show. Gerald was somewhat surprised, knowing that Frank wasn't in to gardening let alone growing vegetables.

With a wink, Frank told Gerald that he had crept up to Muxey's field at dusk and pinched some of his carrots, entering the best of them in the Show, thus winning the first prize and pocketing some very welcome prize money!




Although Tiddles was not the brightest lad, he commanded a great respect from his peers for his sporting ability - he was simply the best at football, cricket, darts, snooker and skittles. And he could also run very fast. Everyone wanted Tiddles on their team.

He amazed his friends by throwing a stone at the church clock, stopping the hands at quarter to three!

Once, when The Globe was being renovated and the builders had some sand delivered, a large tipper lorry emptied a mountain of sand in the car park at the rear of the pub. What a wonderful playground for the village lads! They put some planks up each side of the heap and on their old bikes raced down from the Manor Hall and up and over the sand, Time and time again they raced until one of the lads removed the plank. Unknown to Tiddles, who was in front, he hit the pile of sand, the front wheel stuck fast and he flew over the top, landing flat on his back, somewhat dazed, on the other side.

There was another occasion when Tiddles ended up on his back. Tiddles exercised Bebe, Ivor Richards' pony. Like a lot of ponies, Bebe had to be pushed to go anywhere, but once turned for home, quickened her pace, especially with a novice rider on her back. Tiddles had ridden Bebe up through the Valley, turning about mid-way to come back. Bebe then gained pace until she was cantering through two rocks, the noise from her hooves echoing and Tiddles shouting. Rosie Bray was in her garden, half way up Jan Braggs Hill, and could hear the racket. She went to the gate just in time to see the horse fly past, over the brow of the hill it went and down through lower town, with the noise still echoing around. A swift turn up Castle Hill heading to her stable and food. But alas for poor Tiddles, the wind had blown the top stable door shut - no problem for Bebe but Tiddles came a cropper!




Bert Draper

Bert lived at the far end of Goosewell, near Hole Farm. As were a lot of farm workers, Bert was usually to be seen with a sack tied around him, especially in the winter. Bert owned a horse but the grazing in his field was not very good. So, when it got dark, Bert would take his horse and put it in with his neighbour's to get some good grazing. Before daylight, he would remove it again and no one was ever the wiser! And they say country folks are dim!


George, Dr. Head and Whiskers

In the '50's, George and Dr. Head were gentlemen of the road, or tramps as they were known before PC. They lived at the start of the old coast road in what was part of the old lime kiln, well hidden from the road. Each had a bed of dried leaves under the over-hanging rocks and a stone fire circle with a very black kettle, and some tree trunks on which they sat.

George never ventured far from the village, knowing where he could call to get a welcome cup of tea, a meal or some left over food, even some milk in his can for later. Dr. Head would travel farther afield and would sometimes be seen at Berrydown, Combe Martin or even West down, but he always returned after a few days. They seemed to get along together very well and being given hand-me-down blankets, coats, boots, socks and shoes made their chosen way of life a little more comfortable.

Illustrations by: Paul Swailes

One day, when George arrived back at their 'camp' there was a stranger on the scene - Whiskers, as he later became known. All hell broke loose and when Dr. Head arrived back and joined in things got worse! They were shouting and throwing large stones at each other and making such a commotion that a passer-by went in to the Sawmills and phoned the police, who arrived in force and calmed the situation down. George and Dr. Head grudgingly allowed Whiskers to stay. Like Dr. Head, Whiskers also tended to travel further afield.

George and Dr. Head were an accepted part of the community and most people, including the children, would pass the time of day with them. Whiskers never seemed to fit in and the children would run away if they saw him coming.

In his later years, George moved in to Ilfracombe but he was not forgotten by some of the villagers who when they went in to Ilfracombe would look out for him and give him some money for a cup of tea or a packet of cigarettes.




Dan and Lizzie Toms

Dan and his wife lived in Dormer House from where he used to keep a sharp eye on the young village lads, often 'phoning the police if he thought they were up to mischief.

One winter, after it had snowed heavily and the lads were having a grand time, Dan thought things were getting out of hand and decided to ring the police. As his home phone wasn't working, he had to use the public one, which at that time was sited where the bus shelter is now. Puffing on his pipe and muttering 'I'll put a stop to this', Dan made his way across to the 'phone box, dodging a few snowballs as he went. But, while he was making his call, the lads built up a large supply of snowballs and were waiting patiently for him to emerge; one even went up to the church and got on the roof of the 'phone box. His call finished, Dan opened the door, when an avalanche of snow was pushed off the box and a volley of snowballs came from the front. Dan hastily went back, shutting the door, and was now trapped inside by the lads. His pipe had got wet and gone out and there he had to stay until the lads decided to go and find some other sport!

Dan's wife Lizzie took in visitors and ran the cafe, so there was always washing to be done. She used to hang her lovely white table cloths, bed linen and towels on the grass area between the garage by The Globe and Tower Cottage. Often the village children would be playing football on the Manor Hall grass and many a time the muddy ball would hit the washing, and poor Lizzie would have to wash it all again!

In his article 'Old Berrynarbor - View No. 21' in February 1993, Tom wrote about Dan and Lizzie Toms and their children Reg and Vi, and included a photographic postcard of the family outside their home Woodvale in the Valley.

Photo reproduced from
Newsletter No. 22.


From Woodvale, the family moved to Middle Lee, where Lizzie sold full Devonshire Cream Teas to visitors who would arrive by Royal Red coach from Ilfracombe. When ill health forced Dan to give up farming, he and Lizzie moved into Dormer House, now Miss Muffet's and Dormer Cottage.

In October 2001, in his 'View No. 73', Tom showed a postcard from his collection entitled 'Tom's Tea Room, Steerage Valley', showing Dan Toms standing in the doorway of Middle Lee Farm, reproduced here.




Local characters all contributed to the fabric of the village and the fact that they are remembered many years later is a tribute to them.

Alfie Leworthy

Alfie Leworthy was known to most of the village children in the 1950's as 'Uncle Alfie'.

He, George Geen and Frank Meluish worked for the Council, trimming hedges, clearing ditches and gutters and keeping the verges and the parish very tidy. The children were always pleased to see them working in the village as Alfie would save the Corona and Dornets bottles he found thrown in the hedges and give them to the children to take back to Miss Cooper's shop where they would get the 3d refund, which they then spent on sweets!

One day the three had just sat down to have their lunch in the field at the bottom of Ridge Hill, when several children descended on them, one of whom was Larry White. Now Larry loved the beautiful grey horse which belonged to Sheila Jones. Alfie told him he had a plan which was for Larry to go and find some black paint and then he would help him paint the horse black so that he could take it home! Off went Larry and his friends in search of black paint. However, when the grown-ups found out why they wanted the paint, they were sent off with a flea in their ears!

Undeterred, Larry went to Miss Cooper's to see if he could buy some. No luck! By the time he got back to the field, Alfie, George and Frank had had a quiet lunch and the horse a lucky escape!

Alfie and his wife Vera


Farmer Will Lerwill

Farmer Will lived at Lower Rowes Farm and was a familiar sight riding up and down the Valley on his pony.



One day he decided he needed a pig, so he and a friend managed to hitch a lift to Blackmoor Gate market, where they purchased a fine looking one. Now to get the pig home they had to walk, and all was going well when they reached the London Inn in Combe Martin. Will and his friend were thirsty, so they made a sort of harness from a rope and tied the pig to the drain pipe. They were just downing their second welcome pint when there was a commotion and someone shouted, "Anyone in 'ere got a pig, 'cos ee's just run down road dragging a drain pipe."

The two friends dashed out and down the street, looking for the pig. When they got to the Pack O' Cards, they just had to go in and see if anyone had seen the pig and grab another drink - it was thirsty work chasing a pig! By this time, the pig and drain pipe were causing some excitement in the street and were well on their way to the beach where watched by quite a crowd, farmer Will caught up with it. The rest of the journey back to Berrynarbor was uneventful, but they didn't stop at The Globe, just in case!

Farmer Will would also ride his pony to Hele for a drink. After a number of occasions when being helped up on one side of the pony he fell off the other, he decided to leave the pony in Higher Oaklands and catch the bus or hitch a lift in to Hele. In the early '60's, Dave Yeo had a Lambretta scooter and he would pick up Farmer Will from Hele. They were quite a sight with Will waving his crop and calling to people as he passed by on the back of the scooter.

Farmer Will was a regular at The Globe, always sitting under the frying pan clock and amusing both locals and visitors with his tales.