Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Major General Chermside's misadventures in Shaldon

Some time in the 1870s, Major General Henry Lowther Chermside, CB, retired to Shaldon, the Devon estuary-side village opposite Teignmouth; he didn't enjoy the experience. The result was these two pieces of polemical doggerel, which appear in his privately-circulated 1880 Some "Trial Shots" at Rhyme, 1859-1879. As the note to the second verse mentions, their "-ore" rhyming scheme is based on that of Thackeray's Song of Shannon Shore, or The Battle of Limerick.


I took a house in Devonshire
(I'd ne'er been there before),
'Twas by the swiftly flowing Teign,
"Keith Lodge," on Shaldon's Shore.

"Oh, dear! How nice 1" said all my friends,
"Snow you will see no more,
For such a thing is never known
On sheltered Shaldon's Shore.

"Sure, Devon's climate is the best
You're close to 'Dartymore,'
No east winds ever chilly blow
On sunny Shaldon's Shore.

"And if you feel a little queer,
Your health 'twill soon restore;
And wipe away all Indian ills,
This life by Shaldon's Shore.

"The Western railway runs you down
From Teignmouth unto Torre,
So a day's outing you may take,
Away from Shaldon's Shore.

"Big luscious strawberries and cream
Are sold at Labradore,
Which is 'but half a minute's walk'
From sweet, sweet Shaldon's Shore.

"And when you take your walks abroad
Why, many a Madrepore
You'll find while strolling on the beach
Of sandy Shaldon's Shore.

"Your 'mansion,' too, is warm and tight,
No wind comes through the door,
Chimneys are never known to puff
Or smoke by Shaldon's Shore.

"Each window-frame is weather-proof,
No draughts come up the floor;
No raindrops dribble through the roof,
All's snug on Shaldon's Shore.

"Above your house there is a view
One almost could adore:
The 'Parson and the Clerk's' red rocks,
Two miles from Shaldon's Shore.

"And as you like Geology,
'Kent's Hole' you may explore,"—
"A hole! No, thanks!" (That's rather good,
I live on Shaldon's Shore.)

So down I came, down came my wife,
With boxes quite a score;
Lily, and "Sam," our pug, with her,
To dwell on Shaldon's Shore.

Now bear with me kind friends, I pray,
Nor think that I'm a bore,
If I relate what sad, sad things
Took place on Shaldon's Shore.

When autumn had to winter turned,
Cold, "never known before,"
With ice and snow barred ev'ry road
Leading from Shaldon's Shore.

Great icebergs floated down the Teign,
And rolling o'er and o'er,
Glanced brightly in the wint'ry sun
Shining on Shaldon's Shore.

Through all that dismal, stormy time,
Fierce gales blew from the Nor'-
Nor'-east, and raised the billows high,
Dashing on Shaldon Shore.

Each morning did the coastguard hoist
The storm-cone to the fore,
Till by one gust 'twas nearly blown
Across to Shaldon's Shore.

Like mountains high the surges ran—
The light-ship at the Nore,
Had it been here, must have been cast
Right up on Shaldon's Shore.

For howling blasts and pelting rain
I could not sleep or snore,
The sea, too, made a thundering noise,
Surging on Shaldon's Shore.

The teeming rain from off the slates
Through many a chink did pour,
Then did with damp and mildew reek
Our walls by Shaldon's Shore.

Our chimneys, too, I grieve to say,
They smoked, and ne'er gave o'er,
And almost choked my family
To death on Shaldon's Shore.

Draughts through the upper stories swept,
And drove us to the lower,
So in the dining room we sat,
Shivering on Shaldon's Shore.

And then, what swarms of hungry mice
Through all the cupboards tore,
A lot were caught in cunning traps
I set by Shaldon's Shore.

The "mansion" certainly was built
In long-past days of yore.
I marvel that it still remains
Standing on Shaldon's Shore.

Then 'twas a good long mile to gain
The small church at Ringmore;
I liked it well—would it had been
Nearer to Shaldon's Shore.

One "Institution," let me name,
An inconvenience sore,
Enough to make a perfect saint
Stamp hard on Shaldon's Shore.

"The Ferry," where you're knocked about
Like ball by battledore,
 Till "Joe" and "Onions" land you safe
And sound on Shaldon's Shore.

How often on that chilly " Spit"
Folks stand to bawl and roar,
Hailing that—blessed ferry-boat,
Stuck fast on Shaldon's Shore.

Again, the goods I ordered at
The Army-Navy Store,
What did it cost to bring them from
The train to Shaldon's Shore?

Once as I by the casement sat,
And o'er my book did pore,
Our butcher, shooting gulls, nigh broke
My skull on Shaldon's Shore.

But I'm a mild and patient man,*
I neither cursed nor swore,
That would have been a naughty thing—
Shameful—on Shaldon's Shore.

* (?) J.C. [this is Josephine Chermside, his wife - RG].

No "poppies, no mandragora,"
Nor "potent hellebore,"
Shall cause me to forget the days
I spent on Shaldon's Shore.

Nothing which could be offered me,
Not heaps of golden ore,
Would tempt me further to prolong
My stay on Shaldon's Shore.

And now I hope when spring returns
To "cut, and come no more."
Oh ! happy day, when I shall lose
The sight of Shaldon's Shore.

Yet great regret we'll feel to leave
Our kind friends at Dunmore,
And others, too, whom I could name,
Living on Shaldon's Shore.

And you, my grey four-footed friend,
Your loss I'll much deplore,
"Leo"—who stemmed for me the tide
Which sweeps round Shaldon's Shore.

"Stop!" cries the wife, cries Lily "stop!
"Don't grind for evermore."
Obedient, I lay by my pen,
"Enough of Shaldon's Shore!

17th February, 1879

A second poem in the same vein tells of Chermside's further misadventures in Shaldon, concering his falling-out with a friend, Lord Clifford, over Chermside's lease to a house.

Outside Shaldon House, 4th July, 1879.

I leased a house in Devonshire,
I'd ne'er done so before;
Lord Clifford owned it, and 'twas called
"The House of Shaldon's Shore."

His lordship granted me the lease;
His noble name it bore.
Six pounds and more it cost, but 'twas
Useless on Shaldon's Shore!

A traveller from Jerusalem
Fell among—-friends galore.
So I met one; he picked me up
On slipp'ry Shaldon's Shore.

He tempted me to take the lease;
He promised, vowed, and swore.
No smoother tongue you'll chance to find
Ten miles round Shaldon's Shore.

I trusted him; I promised him,
That for four months—no more,
He as my tenant should retain
My house on Shaldon's Shore.

But once he'd "fixed" himself therein,
Though mild I did implore;
Bade me depart, and houseless rest
Three years on Shaldon's Shore.

And, as if this were not enough,
At my good name he tore,
And said "I sought to cozen him"—
'Twas hard—on Shaldon's Shore.

He sent me off to Jericho,
Or his Solicit-ore;
And vowed I had no kind of claim
To live on Shaldon's Shore.

So I must fight a desp'rate fight,
Write letters by the score,
And plague my friends both high and low,
Who dwell near Shaldon's Shore.

Thus I've a house, but no abode,
I've lawsuits three or four;
Homeless I soon may sit at ease
On rocky Shaldon's Shore.

I cannot go, I'm forced to stay,
With troubles more and more;
My summer's spoilt, my cash nigh spent,

I'm stuck to Shaldon's Shore.

I have a wife—a grown-up girl,
My grandson, a sailore; *
His mother, and a smiling babe,
To keep on Shaldon's Shore.

Soon as a "singing family,"
Our luck we may deplore.
Perhaps kind householders may give
Some pence on Shaldon's shore.

"Say! Comes your friend of gentle kin
Who blazoned armour wore?"—
Can't tell! he keeps a yacht, a horse,
And gig, on Shaldon's Shore.

'Tis said he dealt in diamonds black;
Sold "sunlights' prisoned store," **
And oft contracted—very tight,
Ere gracing Shaldon's Shore!

* The four-year old A. B. of " H. M. S. Tamar."
** George Stephenson's expression for coals.

Last week around "The Tricksey Yacht,"
Wild waves and winds did roar;
And my best friend was nearly lost
On storm-lashed Shaldon's Shore.

Well! had he been thus cast away,
And lost for evermore,
Dry eyes I'm sure would have prevailed
On merry Shaldon's Shore!

But pity me, kind friends, I pray!
(I know that I'm a bore!)
And oh! do help me to escape
Unskinned from Shaldon's Shore!


In humble imitation of Thackeray's "Song of Shannon Shore, or The Battle of Limerick."
Lord Clifford was the landowner most likely responsible for the so-called Smugglers' Tunnel under Shaldon Ness: see the previous post Shaldon: sea, sand, and subterranea.

A digitised copy of Henry Lowther Chermside's Some "Trial Shots" at Rhyme is available from the Bodleian Library catalogue record (Aleph System Number: 014737939) - US readers will find at Google Books (ctgIAAAAQAAJ). Compiled from various separate pamphlets, it comprises a mixed bag of poetry: acrostics, satire and light local topics, travel impressions, military epic (including Isandula, concerning the Battle of Isandlwana), and translations from French classics. The anthology title - the "Trial Shots" part - alludes to Chermside's regiment, the Royal Artillery.

Chermside (1825–1886) was the son of the physician Sir Robert A. Chermside. An army officer in India and the West Indies, rising to the rank of colonel. He retired in 1878 with the honorary rank of major general, and moved to Devon. After the unsuccessful fling with Shaldon, he and his wife [Martha] Josephine moved to Regia (or Regis?) House, Teignmouth, where he died at 60 - but not before the two had organised the restoration of the red sandstone font (image here) at the church of St Nicholas at Shaldon.

Mrs Burnside also wrote: the British Library catalogue finds some music - Le Printemps Valse (for pianoforte, 1868),  Tripping along (song, 1873), The Village Stile (song, 1877) - and a three-volume novel, The Thorntons of Thornbury (London: Samuel Tinsley, 1874), a family saga that was reviewed fairly neutrally in the Spectator:
The Thorntons of Thornbury. By Mrs. H. L. Chemmside. 3 vols. (Samuel Tinsley.)
—It is commonly a mistake to carry on a story from one generation to another, and The Thorntons of Thornbury, a pleasantly and evon cleverly written novel, is no exception to the rule. It distinctly wanes in interest after its first half is concluded. The good old squire, with his stately, kindly-natured wife, and their two sons, so different in character, and the charming Hester, make up a group which it is not difficult to find a pleasure in observing; we do not know that the younger race, which we see when the curtain rises for the second time, is less pleasantly or less naturally portrayed, but we cannot help caring less for them. About Grace Thornton, indeed, we feel quite sure that she is less charming than her mother Hester. How could she not be, for she belongs to the now generation of which everybody of sense, that is, who is past a certain age, acknowledges the inferiority. Still, however this may be, we can speak well of Mrs. Chermside's novel, of which the least we can say is that it is easy to read, and that no one will be the worse for reading it.
- The Spectator, August 8, 1874
She also contributed an anecdote to the Journal of Society for Psychical Research:
From Mrs. Chermside, Regia House, Teignmouth.
August, 1884,

E.B. was engaged to be married to H.D.O. He was a surgeon in the Army. Want of means on both sides delayed the marriage and he suddenly came to her one day to say "good-bye" as he was ordered to take troops to Canada. He sailed, and she heard of his safe arrival. He spoke of his return in the following spring. One night, being the 28th December, she saw him enter her room about midnight ; a light seemed to shine about him. But he was clothed completely in grave clothes. She sat up in bed and said, "Oh! H., why are you so strangely dressed?" He said "Do not laugh; this is my new uniform." He then departed as he came. She lay trembling all night and weeping sadly. Next morning she refrained from telling her family as they were opposed to her marriage; she, however, unburthened herself to me. I tried to persuade her it was only a silly dream; however, the idea that her lover was dead was most firmly fixed in her mind. A month after, she received the news of his death on that very night, and that the last word he uttered was her name. The whole thing took such possession of her that she slowly faded away and died about two years afterwards.

The following is from notes taken by Professor Sidgwick during two personal interviews with Mrs. Chermside in September, 1884:
"The occurrence was in the winter of 1845. Mrs. Chermside told me that E.B. told her of the appearance the next morning. She (E.B.) was quite sure that it was not a dream ; and had no doubt that her fiance was dead. She heard the details of his death within a month or so as soon as letters then came from Canada, from one of his brother officers, and also from his sisters; and then wrote to tell Mrs. Chermside that he had died the night that she saw the apparition."
- pages 105-106, Journal of Society for Psychical Research, Nov. 1885
- Ray

No comments:

Post a Comment