January 12, 2021 at 8:39 pm #1782Jon LawrenceKeymaster
The following poem complaining about the growing controls on trout fishing in the Chagford area was published in the Western Times in May 1902. It may not be the finest verse, but we thought people might find it interesting as a portrait of attitudes to fishing (and courting) over a hundred years ago. The UTFA had been founded in the 1860s, so it’s not clear how the author had once fished so freely in the Teign. Perhaps others have memories of fishing the river last century (if not in the 1900s!).
At Chagford Again
May Day once more! But, Oh! The rain
The mists, and winds so dreary!
To don my thickest coat I’m fain,
And find a fire cheery.
They wondered if I cared to see
The Chagford Fair to-day, Sir,
But cattle have no charms for me,
And are not in my way, Sir.
Yes, I do love the Chagford Fair
Of quite another fashion
Whose dimpled cheeks and nut-brown hair,
Provoke the tender passion!
You meet them in the quaint old street,
Or up the green lane riding.
Their locks with ribbons neat,
Such locks for love to hide in!
And then the trout! To cast a line
In some well-guarded water,
Is now a cherished wish of mine,
For I’m agog for slaughter.
“Hard lines,!” alas! Are all I get,
The folk who own the fishes
Won’t suffer me a fly to wet,
And pick out pretty dishes.
On to their precious trout they hold,
These dwellers by the Teign, Sir!
As they might grip their bags of gold
If thieves had broken in, Sir!
With one consent they make excuse
Like those who shirked the wedding.
I blush for Devon! What’s the use?
Still notice boards are spreading!
In bye-gone days no boards were there,
Now everywhere they slip ‘em.
Then free as air the waters were,
You did no wrong to whip ‘em.
Now some are wild if you protest
You’d like to try their trouting.
Well, all is ordered for the best;
At least, I have the outing!
With Perrott gone, and all the streams
Denied me, saving one now,
Where is the Chagford of my dream?
The place is over-run now.
But there the birds again are gay,
And golden sunbeams quiver.
With only half-a-crown to pay,
Each morn to fish the river!
Note-The notice boards by the river will soon be as thick as the trees!
by FBD, Chagford, 1st May 1902 [published in the Western Times, 5 May 1902].
With thanks to Colin Burbidge of Bedford for finding this poem.
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