Friday, 18 November 2011

Heartening to see such support

I MAKE no apology for the comprehensive nature of our coverage, on several news pages this week, of the Remembrance Day events throughout East Devon.

I am also proud that we had a representative present at all the parades and services in the 12 main towns covered by The Weekender and our sister View From papers in Dorset.

I have never served in the Armed Forces but I am a member of the Royal British Legion. And it’s one of my favourites organisations, as important as it’s ever been in this dangerous world.

Wherever we had reporters there was a record turn-out for the Remembrance activities, surely a reflection of a greater appreciation and understanding that our troops are putting their lives on the line every day in places like Afghanistan and Iraq.

I went over to Colyton on Sunday morning to attend the Remembrance service in St Andrew’s Parish Church, followed by the laying of wreaths at the War Memorial in the churchyard.

As you would expect in Colyton, the church was full to capacity with a large crowd also witnessing the wreath laying by representatives of local organisation. It was the same story at Seaton, Beer, Honiton and Sidmouth.

Among the wreath layers at Colyton was 37 year-old Steve Collins, a chief petty officer in the Royal Navy, first son of John and Monica Collins. Steve had just come back from his fifth tour of Afghanistan and wanted to be present at his home-town ceremony.

Ironically, Steve left Colyton to join the Royal Navy 20 years ago, leaving Axminster station at 11 am on November 11th (Armistice Day).

The Poppy Appeal this year is expected to top £40 million for Royal British Legion funds, a record. Despite the fact the it has been 66 years since the cessation of World War Two, the work of the Legion goes on unabated and often unrecognised.

It is a sobering thought that there has been only one year - 1968 - when a member of the British Armed Forces has not been killed in the service of their country.

It was heartening to see so many people supporting the Remembrance Day services and parades, especially the young, a clear indication that all those who made the supreme sacrifice will not be forgotten.

Always striving for stage excellence

I’VE waxed lyrical in this column before about the plethora of talented stage performers in this area. How lucky we are.

A visit to Axminster Guildhall on Wednesday to see Axminster Operatic Society’s production of 'Annie Get Your Gun' has not persuaded me to change my opinion.

The first show I saw performed by Axminster Operatic Society was 'Carousel' in 1968 and down the years they have always been prepared to stretch their talents to the limit by staging the big musical shows, rather than sticking to the more traditional operettas.

I thought last year’s production of 'Showboat' set new standards; it was one of the best amateur shows I had ever seen.

That, of course, put pressure on what to stage this year and I think 'Annie' was a good choice. I’m not sure it was better than 'Showboat' but as I say in my review in our Life section, it was a close-run thing.

I didn’t particularly like the big screen but admire the society’s desire to try out new things. I just did not think a show of this calibre required any gimmicks.

The standard of those playing the leading roles was quite remakable yet again, bordering on the professional, with great support by an enthusaistic and happy chorus line.

CASTING my eye down the list of officers elected at the recent annual meeting of Axminster Cricket Club, I was struck by the fact there was one familiar name missing - Phil Spong.

Phil has been one of the driving forces in the cricket club and at Cloakham Lawn sports centre for several decades.

An excellent all-round cricketer who went on to play for Devon Over 50s, Phil dedicated much of his adult life to the promotion of cricket in general and Axminster CC in particular.

He has received many accolades over the years from the cricketing authorities, particularly in relation to his groundsman skills and the promotion of youth cricket, and has held many club posts down the years.

I will never forget his sheer commitment and hard work put into the day the Lord’s Taverners sent a team to Axminster a few years back.

Philip is now at an age when he has decided it’s time to step away from the game and club which has played such an important role in his life. But his contribution cannot be underestimated.

Phil will not appreciate me making these comments - that’s the sort of bloke he is - but some things have to be said.

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