Smorgasbord Posts from Your Archives – #Potluck – Mewstone and Starfish 2013 – Bill Hayes

Welcome to the series  Posts from Your Archives, where bloggers put their trust in me. In this series, I dive into a blogger’s archives and select four posts to share here to my audience.

If you would like to know how it works here is the original post:

This is the first post by Bill Hayes who blogs at Matterings of Mind and there is definitely a treasure trove of posts to be found covering many subjects. I chose this post as my husband knows the area very well having been in Plymouth during his degree and we have friends in Wembury.. A look at the Mewstone…

The Mewstone and Starfish 2013 by Bill Hayes.

This small rocky island about 800 feet off the South Devon coast at Wembury is known as the Mewstone.


Although uninhabited, people used to live on this small rock. Way back in 1744 a local man, found guilty of some petty offence, was sentenced by a magistrate to be ‘transported’ to the island for seven years. Not only did he remain there quietly with his family for the entire time without once setting foot on the mainland but, when the time came for the family to leave, his daughter chose to remain behind. ‘Black Joan’, as she was called, eventually married and had three children on the Mewstone before her husband drowned after falling off a rock.

Several inhabitants followed Black Joan, the last being Samuel Wakeham and his family. He enlarged an existing house there for his wife Ann (whom he married in 1833 in Wembury Church), thus creating a highly unusual turreted building.

The abandoned cottage that was home for many years.

Sam also created a garden by clearing stones and manuring the land with seaweed and sand carried up from the beach. Poultry and a couple of pigs were kept, and the island was the warren for the Langdon Estate. Living rent free, Sam protected the rabbits from Poachers by; it is said, putting a bullet through their coat tails to warn them off – before any bones were broken. During the proper season, Sam and his family were allowed to shoot and eat as many rabbits as they wished.

Sam’s life on the Mewstone was less isolated than that of some earlier residents. The glitterati of 19th century Plymouth would hire boatmen to take them out to the Mewstone for afternoon picnics on the rocks and look back at the fabulous Devon coastline. Sam soon capitalised on this and made it known around that if visitors would stand on the beach, and wave a white handkerchief, he would, for two pennies, row out to ferry them across. He even carved steps in the rocks for the ladies to walk up in safety.

Sam Wakeham managed to lose his kingdom because in addition to his role as gamekeeper, small farmer and boatman he indulged in an activity the authorities will not tolerate, then or now, smuggling. After being ambushed by the local excise officer, Sam and his family were evicted from the island. He ended his days as a Plymouth boatman, taking tourists around Plymouth Sound.

The Mewstone changed hands a couple of times and then for 50 years from 1956, the adjacent coastline and the island was under the restrictive control of the Military and became a firing range for Naval recruits. In 2006 the land was returned to the nation under the custodianship of the National Trust, that great organisation that owns, administers and protects important Heritage sites around the country. 30,000 people donated money so that the National Trust could buy the Island and adjacent coastline. The Mewstone is now a nature reserve and generally out of bounds to visitors.

The only current inhabitants are the sea birds who nest, breed and feed undisturbed in a rare protected avian haven.

Once a year, however their tranquillity is disturbed by the annual Mewstone Paddle, when hoards of people on boards, logs and rafts paddlerace out to the rock from Wembury Beach half a mile along the coast. In so doing, they raise large sums of money for local Hospices and the Royal National Lifeboat Institute (RNLB).

There are those small band of people who like to swim across open water far out of reach of the shore and rest on the rocky skirt of the Mewstone. You can see their adventures here:

At low tide on the Wembury mainland, the exposed rock is full of pools and gullies. A perfect place for the children to explore and look down into miniature universes full of colour and teaming with life.



a-pooling   a-starfish

maggie and milly and molly and may

E. E. Cummings – 1894-1962

maggie and milly and molly and may

went down to the beach(to play one day)

and maggie discovered a shell that sang

so sweetly she couldn’t remember her troubles,and

milly befriended a stranded star

whose rays five languid fingers were;

and molly was chased by a horrible thing

which raced sideways while blowing bubbles:and

may came home with a smooth round stone

as small as a world and as large as alone.

For whatever we lose(like a you or a me)

it’s always ourselves we find in the sea.

. . . . . . . . . .and then the weather closed in, and it was time for us to go home.
In a matter of minutes low, fast moving mist shrouded the Mewstone

In a matter of minutes low, fast moving mist shrouded the Mewstone telling us it was time to leave.

©Bill Hayes 2013

About Bill Hayes

I am in my late 60’s, living in Plymouth (launching point of the Mayflower) with my wife and 3 great late teenage kids. I work in the film industry searching out and organising locations. Sounds exotic – but I spend most of my time parking cars.

I have been writing since school days, but not very well. I have written for newspapers and magazines. I wrote book on the history of Steam Railways published 30 years ago. Still on Amazon. 50,000 words and I used a typewriter – remember those? I have written a text for a book I worked up with photographer Barry Lewis:

8 years ago this month I started my blog. The title comes from an e.e.cummings poem…”all matterings of mind do not equal one violet” I could write what I liked, when I liked and how I liked. It was here that I finally found my voice. I also found a kind and interested audience and a source of great and varied inspiration from around the world.

Connect to Bill Hayes


My thanks to Bill for allowing me to surf his archives and I hope you will head over to read some of his recent posts.. thanks Sally.

15 thoughts on “Smorgasbord Posts from Your Archives – #Potluck – Mewstone and Starfish 2013 – Bill Hayes

  1. Pingback: Smorgasbord Blog Magazine – The Weekly Round Up – Music, Numerology, Vitamin C, Guest Posts and funnies. | Smorgasbord Blog Magazine

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