Vic Cowling was born in Brentor in 1941, the eldest of two brothers. He attended Brentor Primary School and secondary school in Tavistock. He left to join the RAF in 1961 and later that year his father died. Within a few years his mother moved to Tavistock and in doing so vacated the house built by Vic Cowling’s forebears 120 years earlier, breaking the family’s direct link with the village.
Vic Cowling’s father was actively involved in a number of village organisations, often in a leading capacity. He had a central role in the transformation of the Reading Room into what is now the Village Hall, and was also involved in the consultation and negotiations regarding the status of the Playing Field.
Vic Cowling has very kindly provided the following reminiscences of life in Brentor………. Click on the links below to see the story
Snail Mail Trail
It was 7 o’clock on a fine morning almost 70 years ago. Aged about 10/11, I was eagerly awaiting the arrival of the Post Office van from Tavistock. But I was not expecting a delivery, and I was not alone. I was in the company of Bert Batten, the village postman and our close West Blackdown neighbour. And I was about to accompany him on his delivery.
The regular driver was ‘Taffy’ Saunders and he gave us a lift up to Brentor post office. There, under the auspices of Lena Eastcott, the postmistress, we sorted the mail into delivery order on the kitchen table. The only way I can now gauge the volume of mail is in my recall of the large number of properties at which we did not stop en route. After being suitably fortified by hot drinks, we set out.
From the post office the route took us down through the village until it branched up the lane to Lowertown, before crossing the path field to Shell Park and on to North Road. A quick about turn brought us back to the village centre and to houses around the chapel and Dark Lane. Heading out of the village past the cemetery, the route crossed over another path field on the right, immediately past St Michael’s, (are the stepping stones in the hedge still there?) which joined ‘Big Road’, close to ‘Long Plantation’. After serving the properties in the vicinity of Rowden Farm, we headed towards the Tor.
Passing behind the Tor, the route carried us across the fields to Holyeat Farm and thence down through South Brentor. At Cross Trees it passed through the farmyard and over the fields to Brinsabach. From here it descended through the woods to the fields alongside the railway, which it crossed at the bridges below Wortha Mill. From there it was a straight walk along the Mary Tavy road to home. To the best of my recollection, the properties of West Blackdown and Station View did not form part of the delivery area.
After Bert Batten retired a few short years later, his position was filled briefly by Russell Batten (only distantly related). He had, at one time, been the driver for Rev H Edgar Owen Davies. There was one further walking postman (Bill Foster?) before the delivery was eventually mechanised, probably in the mid 1950s.
For a youngster growing up in Brentor during the late 1940s and early 1950s, the punctuation of the year by a number of annual events provided welcome, if temporary, relief from the post-war austerity. Christmas and birthdays, Bonfire Night, Goose Fair, and, more locally, church or chapel outings to the seaside, harvest festivals and suppers, the village children’s Christmas party and the annual Sports Day.
Central to the Sports Day was a five-a-side football tournament for the Postlethwaite Cup, donated by the village doctor and quite possibly in memory of his two sons killed during the First World War. Teams came from around the area and I remember on one occasion a side styled as Lifton Argyle carried off the prize. In the event of a drawn game, the side having forced the most corners was declared the winner. No penalty shoot-outs in those days! Brentor played in green shirts with white collars and sleeves.
Simultaneously there were competitive sports, principally for children but also some for adults. In addition to standard flat races there were also novelty events such as a sack race, three legged race, wheelbarrow race and a slow bicycle race. One year there was an ‘around the island ‘ race. I have no memory of the actual race itself, which I think must have been for adult cyclists. The route went down through the village and up to ‘Gray’s/Squires’ corner where it joined the Tavistock/Lydford road which it then followed back to the Playing Field.
The child/youngster considered to have been the most successful overall was awarded the Tom Brown Cup. Tom Brown was active in civic and social affairs in Tavistock. What direct attachment he had to Brentor, if any, is uncertain but he was an auctioneer who worked for Ward and Chowen, and Frank Ward had donated the Playing Field to the village.
Alongside the various sporting endeavours were a range of attractions and stalls. Walls ice cream van would be in attendance and there were pony rides. My parents operated a hoopla stall, making use of large wooden curtain rings. If memory serves me right, there was just the one prize for the highest score. The stall that proved to be one of the most popular was ‘Skittling for the pig’ as the village’s manhood strove to demonstrate their prowess. I never gave it a thought as a child, but in my maturity I now wonder what the winner did with the pig!
Sports Day in 1953, Coronation Year, was, with the bonfire on the Tor, the main village activity to celebrate the event, and certificates were presented to all those who actively participated. I was then in my final year at the village school and we had been rehearsed to perform some kind of display/tableau but for some reason it did not take place.
I think that that year must have been something of a swansong because it is my impression that very shortly afterwards the annual sports day was a thing of the past.
Brentor Primary School 1947-53
Structurally Brentor Primary was a single room, divided by a retractable partition, with a small entrance lobby and a kitchen annexe. The main play area extended across the frontage of the building with small areas at either end reserved exclusively for the girls and the boys respectively. The toilets were situated in these areas and to the boys this facility was always referred to as ‘out round’. A small stream flowed below the bench seat to carry away solids, including the belts of the careless.
I imagine pupil numbers were probably around the mid 20s but by the time I left they were in decline. The only constant I recall amongst the teaching staff was ‘Mizogan’ – more formally known as Mrs Hogan. She took the ‘Juniors’ and was supported by a succession of assistants who supervised the ‘Infants’. These included Miss Brooksbank, Mr May, Mr Halfyard, Mrs Groves and Miss Stephens. Edie Cooke, commonly referred to by her maiden name (but not by the children) even though she was twice married with three children, helped serve the dinners and also acted, with her husband, in a caretaking capacity.
Dinners were delivered by a green ‘canteen van’ in aluminium containers, presumably prepared at a central point in Tavistock. Milk was delivered in 1/3 pint bottles before school started. On the coldest winter days it froze and was placed on the cast iron central heating pipes to thaw. I recall one particularly severe time when the canteen van could not get through and we were fed with ‘hard tack’ biscuits.
I probably started school in 1947 but it is possible I joined in the autumn of 1946, shortly before my 5th birthday. One of my earliest memories is of a visit to Miss Bellringer at her home in Yelverton. She was Mrs Hogan’s predecessor as head teacher. Whether it was in the context of her retirement, birthday or a good will visit, I have no idea. It is probable that the two women had worked together. I recall seeing Mrs Hogan’s signature in her maiden name, Kathleen M Phillips, which suggests she may have been in post before her marriage in 1942.
In addition to Mrs Hogan’s instruction, there were lessons on the ‘wireless’ broadcast by the BBC. One I remember in particular without much pleasure – ‘Music and Movement’ – not for its content (physical exercise) but the circumstances; harsh rush mats in a hard, cold playground. There were other lessons – singing, natural history – that we could ‘enjoy’ in the ‘comfort’ of the classroom.
At some point a small(?) group of children, whom I believe were temporarily accommodated at Langstone Manor, and who I now imagine were in some category of disadvantage or vulnerability, joined the school for a short(?) while. Nora Gallup of Langstone is known to have been employed in some capacity within child welfare services. One boy in particular regularly displayed distress by moaning and rocking in his chair. I have found only one birth registered in his name in England in a five year period – in Worthing in 1940, followed by a later marriage in the same area.
My impression is that all children normally walked to school which was of no great consequence for those living within the village confines, but presented something of a challenge to those from Burn Lane and, particularly, from South Brentor. David Glass, and later Billy Doidge, both from South Brentor, almost certainly came via ‘Pathfields’, past ‘Green Pond’, at least during the summer months. I do not know if alternative arrangements were made for inclement weather. In later years I travelled (unofficially) by coach. Secondary school children were conveyed to Tavistock by Percy Down’s coach, which made a pick-up by the station close to where we lived and we, my brother and I, used to hitch a lift up to the ‘Cross’ – the War Memorial.
In addition to performing a Nativity play in the church, there were other dramatic presentations in the school. A temporary stage was erected adjacent to the kitchen door which became the dressing room. In one production I was Humpty Dumpty, enshrouded in a badly stuffed sheet from neck to waist. For what was possibly my first speaking part, my parents later told me of my repeated rehearsal of my single line – ‘Biddy Mentur’, which they later discovered translated into ‘Bid him enter’. Another unrelated script contained the phrase (or something very similar), ‘A slant eyed son of a Chinese sea cook’. Things were much different in those days!
One year a team was entered in the District Junior Schools Sports. In preparation a practice was held on the Playing Field. This undoubtedly doubled as the selection process, matching entrants to events. The meeting took place at Tavistock Grammar School and, if my memory is real and reliable, there were separate competitions for large and small schools. My participation in a flat race ended prematurely when, in my enthusiasm, I tripped over my own feet.
It was probably in 1951, the year of the Festival of Britain, that John Brookes told a sceptical audience of having seen a wireless with a screen, enabling programmes to be watched. This was our first introduction to television. At a time when few private houses had a telephone installed, I recall a class discussion in which we fantasised about a future when it would be possible to speak to someone remotely and see them at the same time. It is possible our imagination had been stimulated by exposure to the ‘Eagle’ to which the school subscribed. This was a comic – ‘Dan Dare, pilot of the future’ – which included material with an educational content. It contained a number of factual articles and as a centre piece had a cut-away illustration of a machine or piece of equipment, showing how it was constructed or operated.
One vivid memory I have that I can now date to 6th February 1952 is of Mrs Hogan emerging from the kitchen (did she have access to a wireless?) to announce the news of the death of King George VI. It was not the news so much but the obvious emotion displayed on Mrs Hogan’s flushed face that had the greater impact upon me.
I was always of above average size. Towards the end of my time I had outgrown the furniture and had to be provided with a larger desk. Because of my physical dimensions, I attracted the nickname of Bighead’. Perversely when I was in secondary school I became known as ‘Bigfeet’.
The academic climax to my time at Brentor Primary was the ‘11+’ exam. In the 1952/3 school year, Brentor entered four candidates, two boys and two girls. Part One was held at the school, from which the boys emerged with success. Part Two took place at ‘Dolvin’ (Tavistock Secondary Modern School, Dolvin Road), and this resulted in the same 50% success rate.
The last noteworthy event before my final departure from the school was a visit to the Carlton Cinema in Tavistock to watch a film of the Coronation.
Brentor Football club 1945 – 1949
Throughout his adult life my father had been closely involved with the affairs of the football club, initially as a player then later as a committee man, but it was not until the late 1940s that they encroached upon my awareness, by which time the club was into the final decade of its existence.
I regularly accompanied my father to matches, both home and away, but it would seem that the experience did little to excite my interest or imagination as I have no memory, with two exceptions, of any related incidents. One (painful) memory was as a spectator at a match in Okehampton when I was hit full on in the face by the ball. The other memory is a repetitive one : of circulating amongst the spectators at home matches during half time with a collection box seeking donations, and then later counting the proceeds on the kitchen table at home. There was a period when we deposited the takings with Bill Howard of the Co-op shop who I assume was then acting club Treasurer. Fortunately the clubs financial accounts for that period still exist and they provide an interesting insight into the clubs affairs (but not the playing record!)
With fewer entries than in subsequent years , and the first reference to any on-the-field activity dated 12 January 1946, it is evident that the club was just starting to emerge from its enforced war time inactivity.
Receipts – £40.3s.2d. Expenditure – £25. 0s .6d
The principal sources of income were: on the field collections £15.2s.5d, spectators and players fares to away matches at Gunnislake, Lamerton, Stokeclimsland, Harrowbarrow and Okehampton £16.12s.3d. and members subscriptions £5.7s.6d. There was also a receipt, ‘Balance from Junior Club £1.5s.11d’ suggesting that the club may have continued to function in a modified form during the war.
The main expenses were for goal nets, ropes, new ball and jerseys £8.9s0d, and Percy Down for coach hire £15.8s.0d.
43 members were named, paying an annual subscription of 2/6d.
From the evidence of the accounts, this was the season when normality was restored to the football life of the district with a full programme of both league and cup fixtures. Brentor was entered for both the Bedford Cup and the South Devon Cup
Receipts. £86.8s.8d, plus £11.13s.1d carried over from 1938-39. Expenses. £72.3s.6d.
As previously the main sources of income were field collections of £23.8s.0d from 15 home games and £30.4s.3d from coach fares (2/6d) to 14 away games. There were anonymous donations totalling £9.6s.10d, and a donation of £5.5s from Mrs Garlick. A concert raised £5.1s.2d and members’ subscriptions amounted to £4.12s.6d. The sale of fixture cards produced £1.2s.6d and the registration fees of eleven named players, at twopence each, added 1/10d.
Once again the principal creditor was Percy Down for coach hire: £36.8s. Payments were made to W Tucker for car hire. (Bill Tucker of Yellands Farm operated a care hire/ taxi service in the village). There were routine payments for general running costs and referee’s expenses, and for insurance and ambulance cover. A dozen jerseys (shirts) were purchased for £1 and £1.1s was donated to the family of a deceased Bere Alston player.
1947 – 1948
The pattern and range of activity of the previous season appear to have been maintained with one notable exception. A reduced level of income failed to cover an increased level of expenditure. The team was entered for three cup competitions: the Bedford Cup, the Devon Junior Cup and the G P O Cup.
Receipts: £80.8s.5d Expenditure: £84.15s. 10d
Income from field collections: £25.9s.3d (17 home games). Bus fares to 11 away games: £32.14s.6d. Whist drive- £2.1s.9d. Subscriptions(32 members) £4. ‘Match comp. (?)’ £10.
The season’s expenditure included: Percy Down, coach hire £48.9s.6d. Car hire (various) £2.6s. Sun Assurance £6.10s. Playing Field £5. 2 new balls £5.3s.
It is possible that the increase in coach hire costs could have been the consequence of having to travel greater distances to cup games which might not have been reflected in an adjustment of the fare, accounting for an under recovery of £16.
1948 – 1949
It is evident from the accounts that the committee recognised the need to take decisive action to reverse the financial trend of the previous season. The significant increase in fares received for travel to away games clearly indicates a revised pricing strategy, and membership subscriptions were increased from 2/6d to 3/6d. There were also fund raising initiatives. On the field, Brentor again entered the Bedford and Devon Junior cup competitions, and a team reached the semi-final of an ‘Under21’ cup competition. A novelty ‘Married v Singles’ match was held.
Receipts: £126.7s.7d Expenditure: £120.8s.9d
Field collections at 17 home games: £21.6s.4d. Fares to 17 away games: £56.1s.3d. Donation- Mrs Garlick: £7.7s. Sundry individual donations: £3.17s.6d. ‘Follies’ concert: £19.11s. Draws(4): £9.3s. Members subscriptions (29×3/6d) £5.1s.6d, and, intriguingly, ‘Princetown fine:£1’
At £68.3s.6d, Percy Down’s bill for coach hire still exceeded the total of fares received. Other payments included: Sun Insurance: £16.10s. Various entry/affiliation fees: £2.11s. 3 new balls, nets and lime: 10.15s.6d. Soap: 1shilling. Payment to injured player (R Batten) £5.
At the end of the 1948/9 season the club had a credit balance of £42.17s.5d.
A Brentor Spitfire
On 20 December 1940, the Western Morning News reported that Commander Archibald and Mrs Garlick of Bonnaford, Brentor had sent a cheque for £5000 to Lord Beaverbrook, the Minister of Aircraft Production, for the purchase of a Spitfire which was to bear the initials ‘J G’ in memory of the commander’s father.
Archibald McDairmid Garlick was born on 20 May 1890 in Thorniebrae, Green Point, Cape Town, South Africa, the seventh of eight children of John Garlick and Ellen Miller. John was born in Lincolnshire and his father died six weeks before his son’s tenth birthday. He migrated to South Africa in 1872, aged 20, and three years later opened his first store. He subsequently developed extensive and successful business interests in retail, wholesale and manufacturing, ranging from clothing, office equipment and the motor trade. He was also active and influential in both local and provincial politics.
Archibald enlisted in the Royal Navy on 15 January 1906 and retired as a Commander in 1933, but returned to active service for a period during the Second World War. In 1911 he was a sub lieutenant stationed at H M S Excellent Gunnery School, Portsmouth. A year later his marriage to Marguerite Irene May Slight (Rita) was registered in Fulham during the March quarter.
The birth of Rita Slight, the daughter of William Edward James Slight, a Royal Marine, and Emily Mary Fitzwalter Hill was registered in Totnes between July-September 1883. When she was three, her mother died and her father subsequently remarried. In 1911 she was recorded as a lodger living in Marylebone, London, working as a dressmaker.
By 1939 Archibald was back in uniform and stationed in Plymouth. The 1939 Register gives their address as 5 Nelson Gardens, Stoke, Plymouth. Before Archibald appeared in court in January 1940 on a minor traffic offence, the couple had moved to Bonnaford. It seems a plausible hypothesis that the move, at least in part, may have been motivated by the close attention that the city was receiving from the Luftwaffe. Little is known of their life in Brentor, although Mrs Garlick’s name regularly appeared in newspaper reports in connection with her involvement in some local event or organisation. She also advertised for domestic assistance on a number of occasions. Archibald reverted to the Retired List in June 1941. They had no children.
On 5 January 1960 Archibald married Margaret Ellen Walker in Cape Town, and on 12 March 1961 Mrs Garlick was discovered dead close to her badly fire damaged bedroom. According to press reports this was the third in a series of similar bedroom fires. Some out-of-county newspapers described her as a recluse and Archibald as a South African property owner, commenting on the couple’s divorce eighteen months earlier. She would then have been aged about 71 and been married for some 47 years. Exceptionally the Daily Herald was much kinder, referring to her as the Lady Bountiful of South West Devon and drawing attention to her generous support of some 20 associations in the area of which she was president.
Probate of her will, in which she was described as a ‘single woman’, revealed that Mrs Garlick left an estate of £6,690. Archibald Garlick died on 17 March, 1968 in the Minehead area of Somerset. Probate of his will was delayed until January 1970, possibly on account of the finalisation of South African assets. His estate was valued at £31,822.