Friday, 25 November 2011

A true philanthropist

MUCH interest has been aroused by the piece in this column last week about the possible renaming of the central pavilion in the regenerated Marine Parade shelters.

The matter came to the fore when the working group organising the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations in June wrote to the council asking if the pavilion could be renamed after Her Maj in honour of her 60 years on the throne.

Town councillors were not over-enamured with the idea, pointing out, quite rightly, that as a big chunk of the £1.3 million shelters cost would be paid for by the people of Lyme Regis, they should be the ones who decide whether the pavilion should be renamed.

Quick to put pen to paper was Geoffery Mann to sugest that the pavilion should be renamed 'The Owen Pavilion' after town councillor Owen Lovell, the only councillor who questioned spending so much on the revamp of the shelters.

A more serious suggestion came from Bernard and Molly Spencer who have an interest in all matters Lyme. They suggested that the pavilion should be named after an 18th century philanthropist who did much for our town but has never been recognised.

Molly and Bernard wrote as follows: “This gives the town council a wonderful opportunity to honour a man who did so much for Lyme Regis but is neglected to the extent few people remember him. I write of Thomas Hollis, 1720 - 1774, the man who gave us the Marine Parade and the Assembly Rooms.

“Lyme Regis owes a large debt to Thomas Hollis for he did much to improve the town. He cleared away the old buildings on what is today, Cobb Gate, enabling an area attacked by the sea to be rebuilt. Purchased and cleared the old buildings in the centre of Broad Street and in Pound Street. Cleared and paid for the site of the Assembly Rooms; handing them to the town. Paid for the removal of the old fort that blocked the seafront, putting in railings and steps to the beach; all of which made the Marine Parade possible. And so much more.

“He was also a benefactor of Harvard College in America and sent the struggling university shiploads of books. Harvard thought so highly of Hollis they named their Information system in his honour - “The Harvard On Line Library Information System.”

“Thomas Hollis was a true philanthropist. Lord Chatham wrote of him that ‘he is the happiest of beings by dispensing continually happiness to others’.

“Another friend, Augustus Toplady, composer of the song ‘Rock of Ages’, is recorded as saying that, ‘Thomas Hollis went about doing good and helping the poor for all of his life’.”

Their letter concluded: “Perhaps Thomas Hollis has been passed by in the past because he apparently referred to himself as a Republican?”

So this is a suggestion that could win the support of at least two of our town councillors.
I must admit I had no idea who Thomas Hollis was or how much he did for the town.

We’re all doomed if it snows in January...

STROLLING along the seafront on Sunday afternoon it was difficult to imagine that this time last year the town was gridlocked by snow.

Many were out enjoying the winter sunshine and there were kids galore playing on the sand.
Lyme, unusually, has been hit by heavy snow three times in two years and the inadequacies of our preparedness for dealing with snow was very evident.

To their credit, the town council have got their act together and provided many more grit bins and supplies of salt.

But the county council are refusing to budge when it comes to extending their griting programme in Lyme. Only the main road through town will be gritted in inclement weather, despite the fact there were several accidents in Woodmead Road and other steep hills last year.

And now we hear that Church Street will be closed for eight weeks in January. That means that Woodmead Road will provide the only by-pass to the town centre.

We can only hope and pray we have a mild January.

Local talent to the fore

WEDNESDAY evening of last week was spent in Axminster Guildhall where the local operatic society were staging Irvin Berlin’s 'Annie get Your Gun'.

I’ve covered Axminster Operatic Society shows, on and off, since 1968 and on this occasion I was reviewing 'Annie' for our Axe Valley paper - The Weekender (see it on our website -

I gave it a good write-up but at one time I thought I was watching Lyme Regis Operatic Society.
The more accomplished singers in our area travel around taking part in the various shows and there were many familiar faces on stage.

Two of the leading parts were taken by Lyme residents Nicky Sweetland and Brian Rattenbury, who were both brilliant as usual, and I was delighted to see two stars of my Lyme’s Got Talent shows - Ben Hills and Amy Street - also being trusted with principal roles.

They did us proud, I can tell you that.

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