Exeter Get-together - May 2010


March the 5th found a small but jovial group sat once again in the bar of the Three Tuns in Silverton, five stalwarts having a tea-time pint (or two). As the sun set slowly in the west and afternoon turned to evening, a few more people joined the table. Just after 8:00 the party sat down for dinner, by this time they numbered fifteen.

By the time the starters had been ordered and delivered, yet another guest had joined the group. The stance, the gate all rattled the memory. The face was clearly recognisable, especially the eyes. The hair style was unfamiliar, as was the hair colour. Eventually Alan rose and greeting the newcomer announced … “Baz Chipp, well, well, well ….! And so another ex-Killertonian re-joined the fold.

The evening passed too quickly. The food was good, the wine flowed freely and the company was excellent. The party broke up around midnight with the sudden realization that the morrow would be an early(ish) start.

Saturday morning and the residents of the Three Tuns met for breakfast at 8:45. A pleasant repast followed by packing and bill paying and departing for Killerton around 9:45.

At Killerton the clans were already gathering. The National Trust car park was filling. Stick Leach leading the way, followed by Paul Goodwin. Roger Heard and Maggie parking adjacent to Martin Hannant and Maggie who had just driven down that morning. Steve and Chris Hatton, with temporary passenger Vijay pulled in, followed by Alan Thomas and Martin and Sylvy Field.

By the time the party had wandered through the NT gate to gather by near the foot of the drive, the numbers has swelled to include Pete Williams and Mark Edwards and John Maxwell-Jones. These were soon joined by John and Judy Brand, Dave Hampshire and his wife, Mike Morrey, Baz Chipp, Paul Nation, Phil Jackson and John Davies.

In bright sunshine, others joining the party included Shaun Noe’s Sister – Karen, with her husband, son and daughter and a long-time friend of Shaun’s, Leah. Dave Kitchen’s wife, Rosie arrived, with David’s 87 year old mother. Denise Melhuish and Dave Jolly from the National Trust, the Chaplain from St Luke’s - Dr James Theodosius, and Fran Angle - Secretary of the St Luke’s Club completed the party.

At shortly after 11:00 the group gathered near the foot of the drive and near to the trees that the National Trust had obtained for us. They are two year old oak trees grown from root cuttings off trees on the estate. They are protected by wooden tree guards manufactured by volunteers to the National Trust. The wood for the guards is oak, gathered from fallen trees on the estate and prepared in the local saw mills.

Steve welcomed the ex Killertonians, their partners and friends, the families who had come, Denise and Dave, James and Fran.

Tributes were paid to each of the named parties, Steve read a tribute to Sir Richard, Stuart read one to Jack and Pat. Alan read a note about David Kitchen and Martin Hannant read a note about Shaun Noe, which was followed by Vijay reading one of Shaun’s own poems. Finally, Paul Goodwin paid tribute to Keith Derbyshire.

James Theodosius gave a blessing of the trees in a short ceremony. During a few moments silence following the blessing, the bells in the clock towered tolled poignantly, almost as if planned. It was a very touching occasion and a memory I shall cherish.

The group retired to the NT café for light refreshments. Some departed for their journey home, but most reassembled on the drive at 12:45 for the short walk to the front door of The House. The lads (lads… ha!?) assembled for the traditional pose on the front steps, followed by a brief ceremony where Alan presented a Killerton Rugby Club Badge and Football Club Badge to Denise, and also a cheque for the trees!

The House is currently closed during the winter months to the general public but once again Denise was unbelievably accommodating in allowing us to wander through the House. Through Sleepy (Creaky) Bed Wing, the Music Room (John M-J playing the organ briefly - no, not Fleur-des Lys) , the TV Room, the Library, the Dining Room, up to Bud Wing, through the Flat to Dickie/Jack’s Wing, to the squash court, the cellars and finally the bar. We were there for around two hours – the photos in the gallery hardly do credit to the overwhelming feeling of nostalgia we all felt.

Finally, with thoughts of the reunion in June, we returned to the cars and thence to the journey home. Admittedly a few of us called in at the Red Lion on the way out for sustenance ready for the journey but otherwise a gentle drive home.