This year's Regatta was probably the best in recent years. All the events went ahead in bright sunshine, the races were exciting and hard-fought, the cheapjacks and tent were full of good stalls, the fair operators put in a sight more effort than their illustrious predecessors and the air displays were exciting and innovative. Okay, there might just be a teensy quibble or two - they tried the fireworks in the Bight last year and nobody liked it, and somebody needs to explain to the committee that a Closing Ceremony should be held at the end of an event (see The Olympics for example!) - but overall a jolly good time was had by all.
I say 'by all', but apparently the Dartmouth Chronicle's ace reporter Steve Peacock was attending an entirely different event. As I wended my way up the hill from a merry Saturday evening one of my companions was moved to note that there was a much lighter, more jovial, mood in town than has been the norm at the witching hour in recent years. We speculated that this might be because the constabulary was not mob-handedly attempting to terminate people's fun. According to the Chronic, however, we were apparently witnessing the Regatta atmosphere being 'wrecked after a man died and the event degenerated into a night of violence'.
Let's look at this properly. What actually happened is a handful of minor scuffles, probably little more than the police have to deal with on most Saturday nights in Dartmouth - and indeed every morning, afternoon and evening of the year in Brixham - and it's worth noting that most of these incidents involved travelling troublemakers from Torbay and Plymouth. It's also evident that the police are keeping an eye on the pubs that used to be trouble spots years ago rather than those that have become disreputable now. Reported with great glee by Mr. Peacock is an assault on Sgt. Iain Simons during his final shift in the town. I have great respect for the good sergeant, who has been a great servant to the town and a credit to the force, and it goes without saying that such behaviour should be punished harshly. I'm sure that Iain has faced far worse in his former career in the Big City, though, and is well aware that making an enemy of disgruntled lowlifes is part of the job.
The worst event the Chronic reports, of course, is the sad death of a man on the North Embankment in the early hours of Sunday morning. The paper contrives to give the impression that this was a result of the supposed orgy of violence. In fact it is a tragic case of an alcoholic who had one last drink too many and died a lonely death. Perhaps Steve Peacock would be better off investigating just how many incidents reported in his august organ are linked to the Dartmouth Apprentice, just as this one was.
I suppose we should be thankful that the Dartmouth Chronicle now bothers to dedicate significant space to Regatta; for many years it was rarely awarded more than a couple of columns hidden amongst the extensive coverage of unknown and possibly mythical places beyond Kingsbridge. By publishing this misleading and downbeat report of the best and most successful event for years the paper is in danger of damaging Regatta, the town and its people. No doubt, however, the Chief Constable is rubbing his hands at the prospect of all the money he'll be able to extort from Dartmouth for the riot squads he'll insist are deployed next year.