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Chris de Vere Hunt’s play ‘All Aboard’ remembered the Blue Motor Bus Service and told stories of Porlock Weir from 1914 to 1950. Guests at Dovery Manor Museum were welcomed with wine and canapés in the Great Hall before gathering in the museum’s atmospheric solar, to enjoy an evening of tales, poetry and music presented by the Museum Players.
Chris de Vere Hunt welcomed everyone before reading from Walt Whitman’s celebration of the out-of-doors ‘Song of the Open Road’. Christine Greenwood, expertly setting the scenes throughout the evening, described the development of the bus service from 1916. The audience were then transported back to join some imagined passengers and bus company staff waiting for the Blue Motors bus at Porlock Weir at the very end of the 1940s.
Mark Palmer convinced as the roguish bus conductor George Sparks whilst his wife Sandy Sparks, skilfully played by Jane Hill, enthused about life as a Land Girl. Reminiscing about their first dance led to Stephanie Blake (flute) and Chris de Vere Hunt (guitar) accompanying the cast and audience in delightful rendering of ‘A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square’. Penny Kelham’s sensitive reading of J.R.R.Tolkien’s ‘Roads Go Ever On’ resumed the sense of journeying.
The Home Guard would have played a significant part in many men’s lives on Exmoor during the war, acting as a secondary defence force in case of invasion. Nigel Greenwood was a splendid Bill Parsons, a driver for the Home Guard, sharing memories of his duties and evoking a chill of fear as he told of being faced with Germans coming ashore for water at Ashley Combe.
John Hill’s flamboyant portrayal of Robert Bilcliffe Loraine MC DSO, actor and aviator, had the audience laughing with his tales of derring-do and set the ladies’ hearts fluttering! Robert Loraine was the father of Joan Loraine, latterly of Greencombe Gardens. Loraine is cited by the Oxford English Dictionary as the first person to coin the term ‘joystick’ in his diary in 1909. Chris de Vere Hunt’s enchanting reading of ‘High Flight’ by John Magee transported the listeners into the wonder of flight.
Stephanie Blake was a marvellous Nurse Bragg, a familiar figure in Porlock in those days, interesting the audience with memories of her duties and her witnessing of the American Liberator crashing on Porlock marsh. A poem to Florence Nightingale was delightfully and sympathetically read by Penny Kelham.
Most entertaining scenes followed as Sylvia, a former evacuee, admirably played by newcomer to the Museum Players Tamra Cadman, shared her recollections of life away from the city and everyone joined in with ‘White Cliffs of Dover’. The audience were treated to excerpts from Band Wagon’s Chestnut Corner and reminiscences of ITMA, culminating in a rousing ‘We’ll meet again’. The importance of the advent of national radio was revealed by John Hill’s convincing delivery of speeches by Lord Haw-Haw and Winston Churchill.
Mrs Brown, ably played by Penny Kelham, arrived at the bus stop and spoke on fashions from the Edwardian period to 1949. Laughter ensued as George displayed his boredom with the subject and Mrs Brown showed off her bloomers!
The evening’s entertainment was brought to a close as everyone joined in a fine rendition of ‘Sentimental Journey’.
The audience and cast then exchanged reminiscences over coffee and chocolates, ably provided by Fiona Plumstead, Jill and Ron Fitzer and Daphne Midwood. The drama was written and directed by Chris de Vere Hunt and produced by Dovery Manor Museum’s curator Dr Lita Strampp. The wardrobe manager was Midge Kay. The evening brought to a close the 2017 exhibition "Seas of Change" which reflected the enormous, far reaching, social and technological changes in Porlock Weir from 1914 until 1950.
Dovery Manor Museum, Doverhay, Porlock, Somerset, TA24 8QB. United Kingdom