“ I have never before, in my long and eclectic career, been gifted with such an abundance of natural beauty as I experienced filming War Horse on Dartmoor.” Steven Spielberg.

Coming Home

Devon-born Wellesley Tudor Pole founded the Chalice Well Trust and started the ‘Silent Minute’ during the second world war when he felt ‘an inner request from a high spiritual source that there be a Silent Minute of Prayer for Freedom, at 9pm each evening during the striking of Big Ben’. He said later that “There is no power on earth that can withstand the united cooperation on spiritual levels of men and women of goodwill everywhere. It is for this reason that the continued and widespread observance of the Silent Minute is of such vital importance in the interest of human welfare.” The Silent Minute continues today as a mark of respect and care.

Margaret Thornley was a friend and follower of WTP and, in the 1950s, she similarly ‘received’ a quest to look for and heal ‘the dark places on the Moor’. She was advised to seek out Eric Hemery, The Dartmoor Guide based in Chagford (my grandfather). It seemed a strange request but he duly took her to many of the places which Margaret felt to be holding a negative or dark quality. (There are many places that we can think of today with fright-inducing names or legends!)

Margaret called herself a Pilgrim of St. Michael and felt strongly that she needed to visit as many St. Michael places as she could, mainly in Devon and Cornwall. On arriving at a site, she would take her walking stick and, using a small piece of wood affixed to the stick, would turn it into a cross. She then held it up, and invoked the powers that be to let go of the darkness, and bring in the light. I think she came from a Christian perspective, but what mattered was that she brought such love and wisdom to everyone she met, as well as to the places she was compelled to visit, and that her intention to do good was the most important factor. In his book ‘High Dartmoor’, my grandfather writes about one such extraordinary experience with Margaret near Fur Tor.

Margaret became a good friend to the family, visiting frequently, exchanging letters, and even buying them a car to help the Dartmoor walking and pony-trekking business – a huge gift to a family struggling to make ends meet through guiding (as many of us are still doing today!)

So, you can imagine my mother’s delight (who remembers Margaret and Wellesley very well) when Paul Rendell, Dartmoor Guide, recently got in touch to ask if I would like to buy a book from Eric Hemery’s personal collection – and inside the front cover we found this touching dedication in Margaret’s handwriting. Mum’s response was ‘they’re such a link with the past. And they’ve “come home” to you – brilliant! Serendipity, perhaps’. Thank you for reuniting us Paul

(Photo is of my Margaret with my great grandmother Nellie)

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