Monday, 9 July 2018

A beacon of learning

Sir Walter with some of the young scholars at Exmouth's The Beacon, Church of England VA Primary School

‘Tis truly apt that the Museum of Fairlynch in the fair town of Budleigh Salterton doth share the same emblem as that place of learning in the fair town of Exmouth, known as the Beacon School. For verily a beacon doth stand for light amidst the darkness of ignorance and foolishness that we see in the world today.

The Raleigh board game is part of the Teachers' Pack, available free of charge to schools thanks to a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund

And thus it was that Dame Lizzie, continuing to labour most fruitfully for the Museum, did arrange our visit on the sixth day of July past where we did address all the assembled scholars of the Beacon School.  

The good lady hath devised these rules of the making of a board game which doth illustrate the ups and downs of our eventful life; such a board game might be the celebrated and commonly played Snakes and Ladders.   

The pub sign at the Sir Walter Raleigh, East Budleigh

For verily there were a multitude of ladders in our life which led us upwards. We quoted the example of the cloak that we laid over the famous puddle, such that our Sovereign Lady Elizabeth did walk dry shod. And thus it was that we were rewarded not merely with a dazzling smile from her sweet lips but with the highest offices at Court and in the fair land of England! 

Ye see here the famous event on the sign of the fine alehouse named in our honour in the fair village of East Budleigh.

But was the story true, we asked the young scholars. Some of them did most cleverly doubt such a story, and we did confess that ‘twas an ingenious invention. But a good story notwithstanding!

Elizabeth I by Exeter artist Nicholas Hilliard
From the collection of the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool

As for the other, we did verily discover that the Court – like all Courts – was a nest of duplicitous and evil snakes.  We did explain one notable event which did lead us downward. For, as we explained, ‘I fell in love!’ And the young scholars did sigh most sympathetically on hearing this word.

Yet, was this our great undoing. For our Sovereign Lady Elizabeth, beautiful though she was, was what may be called in common parlance ‘a control freak’.  And she was mightily displeased that we had wed in secret our beloved Bess, who was one of her ladies-in-waiting.

And thus it was, as we explained to the young scholars, that Queen Elizabeth did command that we both be committed to the Tower of London.

Yet another ladder did we mention: namely our discovery of asphalt in the Pitch Lake on the Island of Trinidad, which hath allowed peoples of the world to travel in comfort on smooth roads. 

We told the young scholars of the honour bestowed on us by the Post Office of Trinidad and Tobago in designing this postage stamp.  More worthy of memory, we feel, than the ‘spuds and ciggies’ that the vulgar multitude do too easily associate with our name.

At the re-enactment of Millais' 'The Boyhood of Raleigh' on Budleigh beach, 28 May 2018
Photo by Rob Coombe for Matt Austin Images

To such discoveries, we pointed out, may be added our achievements such as the creation of the Great Republic of the United States of America. A long ladder indeed!

For true it is that our colony of Roanoke did lead to furtherance of English speaking in the New World. And we are told that our great book The Historie of the World did inspire the founding fathers of the American nation to reject the rule of tyrant kings.

But such knowledge was perchance a trifle advanced for our young scholars.  

Dame Lizzie did then invite us to give out certificates to the worthy young scholars who had achieved great things in the science of such areas as mathematics and swimming – both being most useful to young explorers. Indeed did we commend to all that they strive to be polymaths – like our good self!

Photo: Lizzie Mee

Later, we did address a small group of scholars to impart further words of wisdom. They did seem verily curious as to the quantity of pearls sewn on our doublet: we did explain the symbolism of such pearls to be found in portraits of our Sovereign Lady Elizabeth.

Photo: Lizzie Mee

Likewise did we show the pearls on the rings which adorn our bejewelled hands.

One young scholar proudly declared she had seen our portrait in the church of All Saints in our village of East Budleigh and had even sat in my pew. 

(This portrait, of course, is used on the label of the excellent Raleigh 400 ale brewed in our name, but we did not mention that to the young scholars). 

We did recommend that they visit the Museum of Fairlynch, there to see our famous portrait of ‘The Boyhood’ as created by Sir John Millais.

In this chromolithograph credited to the New England Chromo. Lith. Company, around 1870, Pocahontas saves the life of John Smith 

And a strange footnote to all this. For we did learn from one of the teachers that she herself was descended from the family of the Princess Pocohantas, whom we had the good fortune of meeting in London. 

Ye see here a portrait of the Princess, which we noted by curious coincidence was painted in the year of 1870, like ‘The Boyhood’. And the cleverer of our young scholars will be quick to point out that both are works of fine fiction.     

We look forward to our next visit to a place of learning in this fair county of Devon: in the fair village of Awliscombe on the sixteenth day of this month.  And so fare thee well, faithful reader.

PS. A nice comment from teacher Suzy Crane: 
What a lovely piece. The children ( and staff) thoroughly enjoyed the visit.  They have been inspired ever since to work away at the board games and find out lots more about Sir Walter! Thank you so much for visiting us.


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