Sitting in a church beside the River Nore in a village where the soft landscape of Co Kilkenny merges into that of Co Wexford, a moment’s inattention meant catching sight of a shining brass plaque on the nave’s north wall. ‘Nancy, Wife of Frederick, 4th Baron Teignmouth’.
‘Teignmouth’ it seemed not to be a grand title, more the stuff of station announcements as we waited for the train to return to school, hearts heavy at the prospect of a new term. An express might reach its terminus, Plymouth or Penzance, in a handful of stops, a stopping train might halt at rather more; Tiverton Parkway, Exeter St Davids, Exeter St Thomas, Starcross, Dawlish Warren, Dawlish, Teignmouth, Newton Abbot, Totnes, Ivybridge, Plymouth.
There was a pattern, but no apparent logic, in the stations used by the school. Exeter Saint David’s at the start of the term, Teignmouth at the end of term, Newton Abbot for boys returning home for the two weekends permitted each term. Exeter acquired an association with gloom; Teignmouth, an association with a buoyant delight.
Teignmouth was the location of our sister school. While, for the good of our health, boys travelled deep into Dartmoor to a sprawling grey building where condensation would freeze on the inside of the windows on winter nights and where the nearest shop was three miles distant, girls enjoyed a relatively liberal regime in a fine house above the seaside town. Fraternisation was permitted occasionally, teenage romances blossomed briefly, sometimes friendships that would last for decades. Teignmouth meant girls in the height of 1970s fashion and pop records and smiles and laughter.
In student days, Teignmouth was a place to reach by train. Not so much to be there, but to make the journey down the Exe estuary and along the South Devon Coast. Starcross and Dawlish Warren will ever be evocative of light on water and the warmth of long days. In stormy times, the railway might be inundated, but in those years the sun seemed never to be absent. Once, a friend and I journeyed down for no reason other than the journey; we ate lunch in a pub in Dawlish and played frisbee on the beach before returning to the mundane meadows of Somerset
The first Baron Teignmouth took his title from his wife’s home town; did his successors often visit the place after which they were named? Perhaps the fourth baron and his wife enjoyed journeying to the ancestral place. Perhaps later barons travelled the line down from Exeter, staring from the carriage window and thinking it a good place to be.
I prefer Dawlish, it brings back memories of seaside trips back in the 60’s on those luxury coaches with itchy seats, I was fascinated by the trains running along the top of the beach (Dawlish sea wall) .
Ah, the old school journeys. I shall be doing it again in July, off to visit an old school friend who now lives in Brixham, but this time a solitary journey by first class with a good book and memories of the childhood views.The last time I was in Teignmouth was a couple of years ago for a grammar school reunion. I walked from Teignmouth to Dawlish along the seafront and railway line. It was as beautiful as I remembered it and the sun shone obligingly.
I cannot imagine how my life would have worked out if I had never been sent to Teignmouth. I lived on a farm in Buckinghamshire and was totally allergic to it! So I was sent to Teignmouth for the sea air. My mother and father were filled with guilt, but they need not have worried I loved it! I was never ill there, only when I went home in the holidays. Days when Aunty Nora would say, “today it is too hot to do any school work, we’re all going to the beach for the day!” She said that on quite a few occasions, no wonder I left with only being able to cook and sew well! The Pier, the small swimming pool on the front, the purple penny, the cinema, Woolworths, soda ice creams, waiting for the tilly bus outside the theatre where Aunty Bet (I think)had a birthday party and we all got a huge bar of chocolate – this is why I loved, and love, Teignmouth!
I think the HBS philosophy was that you managed girls by treating them nicely and that you managed boys by being nasty to them!
Lisa, It’s good to hear that someone else enjoyed therir time at HBS Teignmouth. I wouldn’t swap it for the world. The going to the beach thing rubbed off on me too – I did occasionally miss lessons at the grammar school because the weather was far too irreistible – don’t know how I got away with it!