We had an interesting fish-related day yesterday.
While Fred Buller was interviewed on Radio 4's Today programme about The Domesday Book of Giant Salmon, Bookhound and I trotted off to the Topsham Museum where he was scheduled to present a copy of the book on Fred's behalf to the museum archives and to thank them officially for the use of that fantastic cover picture of the 61lb 4oz Topsham salmon (that's sixty-one!) caught on the River Exe in 1924.
It was 4ft 6ins long and had a girth of 29ins so all in all quite a bit bigger than Posh Spice.
You see I do pay attention and read Hello magazine.
Having been caught and sold to MacFisheries at the going rate of just over 3s/lb in old money (the fish, not Victoria Beckham) someone saw sense as the filleting knife was poised over this big boy and decided he should be stuffed and mounted for posterity rather than steamed, garnished and digested.
For this intervention we must be unfeignedly thankful.
What made yesterday's event so special was the fact that there to receive the book on behalf of the museum was Jim Voysey, son and grandson of two of the fishermen holding that original fish.Jim told us they would both have been immensely surprised and proud to find themselves on the cover of a book.
Jim is standing in front of his grandfather 'Old Dick' and that is his father Jim, known as 'Noll', at Bookhound's right shoulder.
Isn't history amazing when you see it like that?
After the formalities, we chatted for ages to a little gathering of old River Exe salmon fisherman and even I could have stayed all day.
Forget the subject if it doesn't happen to be your own and just listen to the wisdom and humour of a passing generation with a story to tell. In this case hilarious doesn't come close and all in that beautifully broad and deep Devonshire accent. It was good to touch base with the heritage of what was a little fishing community, but which is now a bustling and very up-market town full of designer shops, patterned wellies with laces up the front, and posh sailing gear.
I had a little guided tour around a museum that is well worth a visit if ever you are in the area. Somehow you expect little museums in the backstreets of tiny places to be a bit sad and depleted. Not so Topsham Museum and I reckon there must be so much of interest lurking unknown and unseen in so many of these treasure troves around the country. Someone should trek off on a nationwide tour with a camera and then write a book on it, in fact I'll go and do it if someone pays my train fare, I bet we'd be pleasantly surprised at the finds.This one is run tirelessly by volunteers and it is all an absolute credit to their unpaid dedication, nothing shabby about it at all.
To my great surprise, as well as being a completely furnished and preserved 1930's house with an amazingly equipped kitchen, there was a Vivien Leigh Room. I discovered that Vivien was
related by marriage to the large Topsham family who had lived in the house, the Holmans, and was a frequent visitor to the area.
Walls decked with fantastic pictures and memorabilia from Gone With the
Wind but the very best thing of all?
Vivien Leigh was allowed to choose one item to keep from her wardrobe for Gone With the Wind and she chose the nightgown, so there it is, exquisitely displayed in a glass case in the Topsham Museum. It is quite stunning and I was slightly awestruck to see it in a setting I least expected.
Who'd have thought it?
Ceremonial over we forced ourselves into the second-hand bookshop as one must.Nothing but nothing leapt off the shelves into my arms, so off for a lovely lunch to celebrate a very happy and successful day.