The Appledore Book Festival was the test bed.......
.........for Amanda Gratton to see if her talk on "Appledore Women" was good enough for Coastwise members - it was !
Amanda, a volunteer at Appledore Museum, has researched its archives for the background of how local women survived in the past.
Fishing and maritime work was the major occupation of the men of Appledore until the 20th century, meaning they were away for long periods of time.
For example, a fishing trip to the Newfoundland grounds could last from March to December, during which time the married women had no reliable income and generally no credit in loca shops until the fleet came home.
Amanda described how the British navy actually paid dependants of sailors while they were away, so marriage to a naval seaman was seen as a desirable objective. There are instances where a wife (possibly more than one) stowed away in a ship with her husband, with a baby being born onboard.
There are instances of women becoming proficient sailors to support their husbands. Thomansine Williams, the wife of a barquentine captain, recorded weather and location and learned navigation to support her husband.Rosanna Harding also learned how to sail and acted as mate on the Dahlia for her husband, subsequently running the shipping business.
At the other end of the scale, life could be grim for some, and as a substantial loacl business was burning lime for agricultural and buidling purposes, considerable amounts of coal and limestone were imported. Women were expected to shift these cargoes and there are man records of these, known as 'Stone Heavers'.
Amanda's talk was rich in fascinating facts and personal histories, culled from the North Devon Museum archives.