CHRISTMAS OFFER Subscribe to Devon Life today CLICK HERE

In Tune with the World

PUBLISHED: 09:41 25 January 2011 | UPDATED: 20:32 20 February 2013

In Tune with the World

In Tune with the World

Michael Morpurgo tells Anna Turns how poet Sean Rafferty played a big part in Iddesleigh village life and how his poetry lives on today

Poet Sean Rafferty lived in the North Devon village of Iddesleigh for over 40 years until his death in 1993. Although he never sought publication, his friends and family felt that his life and great work must not be forgotten. About three years ago, residents held a concert in Iddesleigh village hall, where they read and performed his poetry. As a result of this concert, his friends and neighbours have compiled a new CD of poetry readings to celebrate Seans life and work.

Good friend and fellow writer Michael Morpurgo explains that everyone who knew Sean is really proud of his poetry and its great to have this CD compilation. It is very much better to hear Seans words read aloud, says Michael.

The Morpurgo family connection to Sean began with Michaels wife, Clare, shortly after the war. Seans second wife, Peggy Rafferty, was a good friend of Clares father, Allen Lane, the founder of Penguin Books. In 1948, Sean and Peggy moved to Devon and Sean became landlord of the Duke of York pub in Iddesleigh until his retirement in 1975. As a young girl, Clare would come down from London and regularly spend school holidays with Auntie Peggy at the pub from age of 7 to 13. This instilled in her a strong passion for farming life and the Devon countryside and is where her dream to create Farms for City Children first developed.

The pub became a real success, with all their hard work, says Michael. Sean was very quiet and unassuming. But from behind the bar he had spent a lot of time observing the locals and describes them in his poetry with humour and affection. So Seans poetry paints a picture of the landscape of life in the village of Iddesleigh from the 1940s to the 1970s.

Eventually, Michael and Clare moved to Iddesleigh and bought Nethercott Farm where they established Farms for City Children in 1976. Clare fulfilled her dream to provide an educational programme in the countryside for thousands of city children.

After working behind the bar for 25 years, Sean and Peggy moved to live in Burrow Cottage on the Nethercott Estate just down the track from where Michael and Clare lived. For years, Sean worked as a gardener in Nethercotts beautiful walled vegetable garden, and until the day of his death in December 1993, he was still shutting up the hens. Sean was always very encouraging with our plans for Nethercott, says Michael. He was a good friend and a kind, gentle man, but also a father and grandfather figure to myself and my wife, Clare.

Michael was also lucky enough to become great friends with their near neighbours Ted and Carol Hughes. We were all very engaged in each others lives, and lived closely alongside each other. Michael would often sit around the fire with Sean and Ted, drinking a glass of wine. As a writer myself, I found it great to live alongside these wonderful poets.
Before the war, Sean was a poet and a playwright for the Players Theatre in London, then he worked as a London fireman during the Second World War. Throughout his life, he continued to write his poetry without seeking publication, though eventually The Collected Poems was published by Carcanet in 1994. We knew we were in the presence of someone who was a real genius with words. He was very encouraging to me as a mentor he was a guru, Michael explains. His poetry represents a beautiful interpretation of the natural world and, as Michael puts it, Seans place was in the countryside.

One poem on the CD is particularly close to Michael and Clares hearts. The poem From Hereabout Hill describes the hill right next to our farm, and it is about the Ockment valley we look over, so it is a very personal poem, says Michael. That is one of the great views of the world but so often people dont see Devons best views because of the high hedgerows along the lanes!

Also on the CD, Michael reads a touching personal memoir he wrote about Sean and his death in the lane close by. Sean was gardening for us until he was in his late seventies, and then he insisted on continuing to shut up the chickens each night for us at the end of the lane. Sean passed away outside the hen house, and when Michael found him lying there, there was a stillness in the air and a blackbird sung overhead. Michael so aptly writes: Even in death, youre in tune with the world, Sean.


In Tune with the World is a CD compilation of poetry readings and music celebrating the work of poet Sean Rafferty (1909-1993), produced by Chris Brown. The CD includes readings of Seans poems by his friends and neighbours in Devon, including Michael and Clare Morpurgo, Carol Hughes, Jim Causley and Nicholas Johnson.


The CD is available from Farms for City Children, Bridge House, Fore Street, Okehampton, EX20 1DL for 8.99 inc p&p. Approximately 8 from the sale of each CD goes to the Farms for City Children charity.
farms4citychildren.co.uk


0 comments

More from People

Fri, 13:13

Actor Tom Burke talks to JUDI SPIERS about his production of Don Carlos staged by his own theatre company Ara, in association with Exeter’s Northcott Theatre

Read more
Wed, 11:54

In the latest in her series throughout 2018 profiling inspirational women, KATE HASKELL talks to England Women’s Cricket Captain, Heather Knight

Read more
Friday, October 26, 2018

There is more to Georgia Toffolo than an award-winning TV show, as HOLLY EELLS discovers

Read more
Friday, October 26, 2018

Striving to be the best in the world, homegrown Devon professional squash player Lyell Fuller is seeking sponsorship to help reach his goal. KATE WILLAMS finds out more

Read more
Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Tavistock Rugby Club in Devon is celebrating after being awarded a grant of £2,500 to fund private showers for referees at their Sandy Park ground, as part of rural energy provider Calor’s annual funding scheme

Read more
Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Devon’s Wilfred Emmanuel-Jones, also known as The Black Farmer, tells KATE WILLIAMS about his new book, Jeopardy, encouraging the embracing of risk to enrich life

Read more
Tuesday, October 2, 2018

As five members of Dartmoor Search and Rescue Ashburton celebrate 125 years of collective volunteering, we look back on their time with the organisation

Read more
Tuesday, September 25, 2018

CAROLYN SEAGER reveals how long after her mother’s death she discovered her amazing career in the service of her country

Read more
Tuesday, September 18, 2018

An author known for her novels depicting life on the Channel Islands is nonetheless happiest writing from home here in Devon

Read more
Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Fig Tree Court is a development of 14 apartments in Tiverton for retired and semi- retired over-55s with gorgeous views over the Grand Western Canal

Read more
Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Alex Green goes behind the scenes on the Dartington Hall Estate to find a community of artists, makers, farmers, and social entrepreneurs living out the legacy of its founders

Read more
Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Many people know of award-winning Roly’s Fudge, but do they know how much hard work and business insight goes into making it?

Read more
Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Topsham businessmen Steve Williams and Pete Woodham-Kay take an ethical stance on eating meat | Photos: Nick Hook

Read more
Tuesday, August 28, 2018

As llama love grips the nation, we meet a Dartmoor couple who have spent the last 11 years making them their livelihood | Words: Lydia Tewkesbury

Read more

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy



Topics of Interest

Food and Drink Directory

Subscribe or buy a mag today


subscription ad

Local Business Directory

Property Search