Hearsay 10 We'll Meet Again?

Two men stand overlooking the Dart. Barratt Steer and Harold Rundle had walked up Crowther's Hill and Jawbones. They were getting their breath back on this coastal path by Dartmouth.

A few hundred years ago they might have seen pilgrims setting off on the voyage to Santiago. But today they are involved in their own pilgrimage, and to see ‘their’ boat off on her journey.

More than two years had passed since Steer had forecast to Robb an ill fate for the boat they both loved. But Compton Castle had not been scrapped, only moved to a new berth, so her new owner could make her presentable. That had been done. She was fit to move on.

Now they are waiting for the appointed time to see this pilgrimage of a different kind begin. Presently a small paddle-steamer will come into view and for the first time in 50 years she will paddle on out into the English Channel for a new home in Kingsbridge a few miles away.

The creeks in the estuary she will soon pass,( Batson, Southpool, Frogmore), will never become familiar, not like Old Mill, and Bow Creek on the Dart she is now leaving, for once at Square’s Quay, Kingsbridge, there she will stay.

The two men burst into song as she passes by.

"Now is the hour for me to say goodbye. Soon you’ll be sailing far across the sea.”

This small boat that had made a million hearts happy moves towards the big ocean.

In his mind’s eye Captain Steer is down there in her wheelhouse. As the centuries role into one maybe the spirits of those bygone pilgrims are also, for a while, with her on the journey.

Harry Wood will be anxious. Will it work out? Will folks want to capture her spirit over a cup of tea and a scone? Fanciful dreaming?

No surely not, after all a cathedral at Santiago came out of St James’ journey. And only angels were in charge of that boat, not the idol who Barratt Steer, fancifully, is now waving to. "Who’s there Barratt?"

“Gracie Fields ‘Arold. Can’t you hear her singing back to us from our paddler? So long dear Compton. ‘Keep smiling through, just as you used to do, for I know we'll meet again some sunny day’.”

“Bollocks, Barratt, that’s Vera Lynn.”

Now, at the mouth of the estuary the pilgrim spirits wave their good-byes and proceed on their journey southwards to Spain, while P S Compton Castle turns to the west, and makes for the Kingsbridge Estuary.