Tracing the Trail of The Saint

Roger Moore and his link to Launceston.

 

Transcription of an article that first appeared in ‘The Post and Weekly News’ June 20th, 1964:

‘POST’ DETECTION PAYS OFF

As we reported last week , we’ve been doing a little “detective work” into the background of Roger Moore, who plays the part of “The Saint” in the popular Westward Television series based on the Leslie Charteris character who used to be described as “The Robin Hood of Modern Crime.”

After “tracking him down” in this country and abroad, we did find out from Roger Moore himself that he did have a connection with this district, but it dates back to his boyhood and all he could remember after this lapse of time was that he went to Launceston College for a brief spell when evacuated from London and that he stayed on a farm at or near Holsworthy with a family called, he thought, Allen.

The Saint at Launceston College artcile from 1964

Publication of those details was a further step in our “detection” campaign and we asked the aid of readers in filling out the picture. That, as we had hoped, paid off promptly, on Saturday morning, one of the first telephone calls to our office was from Mrs. Violet Allin to tell us that Roger had got the name right, if not the spelling. But it wasn’t at Holsworthy he stayed: it was Clawton, where Mrs. Allin and her husband, Mr. W. H. Allin, were then farming at Kempthorne. They have now retired and live at Sanctuary, Bridgerule.

‘HAD NEVER SEEN HIM’

Mrs. Allin well remembers Roger Moore, although she had no idea that he was now a famous T.V. star. “I’ve never seen the programme,” she told us, “but I shall certainly be watching tonight. I had no idea what had become of him until I was scanning through the ‘Post’ last night. She was able to tell us that Roger was evacuated down to Devon from London with the Nine Elms School. They came to Tetcott, where the boys were billetted out in local homes and lessons were conducted in the Methodist Sunday School there.

Mr. and Mrs. Allin actually lived in Clawton parish but Kempthorne is on the borders of Tetcott, and when the evacuees arrived, Mr. Allin, who was a Special Constable, went to Tetcott to assist with the billeting arrangements. In fact more youngsters turned up than were expected and to his wife’s surprise. Mr. Allin came home that night with three boys in tow, for whom there were no beds elsewhere. With true Westcountry hospitality, they were taken into the Allin home, staying there as long as the school remained.

The three were Roger Moore, Stanley Cole and Bernard Grimes. “They soon became ‘my boys,'” says Mrs. Allin, “and we did have some fun. Roger’s father, as I remember it, was in the Metropolitan Police.” She also recalls that the peace and quiet of Tetcott became too much for some of the evacuee party – “the masters, not the boys; they loved it in the country” – and as a result, after some months, some of the boys transferred to Launceston and the College, while others went back to London. In fact, eight of them, she was later told, were killed in subsequent air-raids on the capital.

CAME TO LAUNCESTON

That was when Roger went to the College; as she remembers it, Stanley Cole went with either Mr. Folley or Mr. Reynolds, of Launceston, while the boy called Bernard Grimes went with Mr. Frank Mules. “I never heard anything more of Roger after he went away from here,” she said. “I had no idea of what he was doing.” He was, she says, “a big, hefty boy, full of fun and daring.” All three were “lovely boys,” and although, boylike, they could be full of wickedness (“he wasn’t much of a ‘saint’ then!”) there was never anything bad about any of them. Roger, she recalls, was no great book-lover; he liked to be outdoors on the farm whenever he could – “he loved it.”

Mrs. Allin had her own two sons at home then, Denzil and Leighton, although they were older, and for a while she had three more evacuees as well, smaller boys from Battersea, who were billeted in and around Clawton. But nine “men” was a bit if a handful, even for a country housewife to look after, and the smaller boys only stayed a few weeks: “I shouldn’t be here today if I’d carried on with that” she says, laughingly. “They were all proper Tartars” she reminisces, affectionately. “We did have a lot of fun.”

If she does ever meet Roger Moore again, she will have a private joke to share with him: she’ll tell him “H’I have beem h’eating h’onions,” a leg-pull tracing back to the disappearance of some shallots from the Allin garden all those years ago. And when you watch the Saint disposing of the villain with a nifty left hook, just remember that he had his first boxing lesson in the kitchen of a Clawton farmhouse, with Mr. Allin as the tutor.

Now, what about memories of him in Launceston? Can any town readers add further details to our “dossier”?

Footnote: Mrs. Allin and her family duly watched Saturday’s episode of “The Saint’s” adventures, although a technical difficulty causing a break in transmission made them find the story hard to follow. Mrs. Allin studied every male character as he entered the film’s action and after several “That’s not him,” eventually spotter her former evacuee. “He’s changed, of course,” she said, “but I recognised him. Of course, I knew him as  a rather fat, tubby boy, and it was quite different to see him as a man. My grandchildren sent me a picture of him, but I could not recognise that; in the film on T.V., though, I could see it was him.”


Roger was to later write in his autobiography:

“We went via a small truck to the farm from the village hall where all the evacuated children gathered to be matched with foster parents. There weren’t that many vehicles on the road due to petrol rationing, but farmers were an exception to the rule and able to use red petrol and diesel, so Mr and Mrs Allin loaded us aboard and drove us home to their farm. They couldn’t have been more wonderful people.”

With fondest he recalled, “Living with them, in particular skimming the cream off the top of the milk, and the most wonderful blackcurrant and apple pies,”

“The wide open spaces, all around, were something I wasn’t used to and the uninterrupted views across fields and rolling countryside from my bedroom window was about as far removed from London;s Albert Square as anything I’d ever experienced” he said.

“In the days before we had to start schooling proper we helped around the farm, bringing in the cows for milking and such like. Oh, the lovely taste of warm milk squirted straight from the udder of the cow into a greedy London-born schoolboy’s mouth.”

“There were pigs too and chickens that supplied us with an enormous number of fresh eggs, and that at a time when it seemed that the rest of England had to get by on a ration of one egg per person a week.

“I loved boiled eggs and still do and being able to dip the crust of a freshly baked loaf into the gooey centre of the warm yolk was a real treat.”

And he said he really enjoyed the freedom of living in the country.

“We three evacuees managed to take off for the nearby River Tamar and bathe in the clearest of water, cooling us from the heat of the long summer days,” he added. “I am sure that it was all skinny dipping, but that was fine, no girls were in sight.

“I’d always loved going swimming with my father in London, and to have what was almost my own private pool (or river) was quite something. It was a Famous Five type of adventure really, until we had to start our schooling.”

After a carefree period spent ‘on holiday’ in the country, enrolling at Launceston College came as a bit of a shock for Sir Roger. “I was almost 14 and really rather disliked being expected to study hard.

“After enjoying the freedom the farm offered during the previous months it was a bit of a shock to the system, and one that prompted me to write home to say I was very unhappy and that I wanted to cycle back to London – that was a ploy as I never owned a bike. I suppose it had been a few months when I received a rail ticket to London in an envelope from my mother. The bombing of the capital had eased in that time and many children were now returning home; I was naturally delighted at the thought, but did hesitate momentarily when I remembered Mrs Allen’s pies.”

Whilst attending Launceston College he became friends with the head teacher at the old Thorn Cross primary school, and her family and used to spend his holidays in the school house.

 

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