Thursday 2 July 2009

Puffin Money

The island of Lundy rears from the sea like a guardian of the Bristol Channel. An enormous rock. In King Charles’ day it was a haunt of Barbary pirates from the Mediterranean. 

They would raid the north coast Cornish and Devon villages to round up slaves to row their captured contraband back to their north African lands. Many an Englishman spent a life in capture doing this.

Lundy's Jetty and Harbour
Lundy gives its name to a British sea area, used everyday in the Shipping Forecasts, and is one of the many English islands.

Lundy, 5km by 1 km, is the largest island in the Bristol Channel, lying 12 miles (19 km) off the coast of Devon, England, approximately one third of the distance across the channel between England and Wales. 

Lundy was granted to the Knights Templar, a Western Christian Military Order, by Henry II in 1160. The Templars were a major international maritime force at this time, with interests reaching as far as north Devon, Wales and Ireland. 

Lundy Island
It is likely this was because of the increasing threat posed by the Norse sea raiders, however it is unclear whether they ever took possession of the island. The name Lundy is believed to come from the old Norse word for "puffin island”.

A period of anarchy followed, with English and foreign pirates and privateers taking control of the island for short periods. They found it profitable to capture the many passing Bristol merchant ships bringing back valuable goods from overseas. 

Ships were forced to navigate close to Lundy, because of the dangerous shingle banks in the fast flowing River Severn and Bristol Channel, with its 32 feet (10 m) tide, the second highest in the world.

William Hudson Heaven purchased Lundy in 1834, as a summer retreat and for the shooting, at a cost of 9,400 guineas (£9,870). He claimed it to be a "free island", and successfully resisted the jurisdiction of the mainland magistrates. Lundy was in consequence sometimes referred to as "the Kingdom of Heaven."!

His son, an ordained minister, inherited the estate and together with a legacy from his aunt was able to fulfil his life’s ambition of building a stone church on the island. 

St Helena's was completed in 1896, and stands today as a lasting memorial to the Heaven period. He is said to have been able to afford either a church or a new harbour. His choice of the church was not however in the best financial interests of the island.

Financial hardship ensued and the island was sold, together with the mail contract, to Martin Coles Harman, who, following the style set by the “Kingdom of Heaven”, also proclaimed himself a king!

One Puffin coin of 1929,
bearing the portrait of
Martin Coles Harman

However in 1929 Harman went one step further and issued two coins of Half Puffin and One Puffin denominations, nominally equivalent to the British halfpenny and penny; the Puffins were withdrawn after the UK government prosecuted him for issuing illegal tender.

In the late 1960s Lundy was sold once again to a British millionaire who gave it to the National Trust, who in turn has leased the island to the Landmark Trust. The Landmark Trust is a British Building Conservation Charity, which rescues buildings of historic interest or architectural merit and then gives them a new lease of life as holiday rentals.

The Landmark Trust also holds four properties in Vermont, USA and Italy (Rudyard Kipling’s home ‘Naulakha’, and the lodgings overlooking the Spanish Steps in Rome where Keats died, are two of the eight properties).

Adult Puffins in Breeding
The entire island has been designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest and it was England's first statutory Marine Nature Reserve, because of its unique flora and fauna; about 20,000 day-trippers a year visit the island, and are able to enjoy all that it has to offer.

The Puffins as you might expect, are the main lure of attraction; the curious appearance of the bird, with its colourful huge bill and its striking piebald plumage, has given rise to the nicknames as “clown of the ocean” and “sea parrot”. 

Now that the island is a bird sanctuary, the marine life protected and the rodent mammal population controlled the puffins are regaining their rightful place on the island, with breeding colonies being established as the seas can sustain a bird that feeds primarily by diving for fish.

Puffin with a beak full of fish

My uncle remembers many ferry trips, in the 1930s, from Clovelly across the rough waters to the magical island for a family day out, rambling across the rocky outcrop, watching the puffins and sea birds, paddling at the harbour, visiting the inscribed standing stones over Celtic burial grounds, the three lighthouses, St Helena’s and sheltering for their picnic from the Atlantic winds! 

To record their trips the purchase of postcards was enhanced by the Puffin Stamps, available as souvenir “stamps”, full postage being required to ensure their safe delivery.

Mr Postman – you would understand that wouldn’t you .. or perhaps you would be kind enough to deliver a small boy’s Puffin stamped postcard. I think you would ... I’m not sure if my mother has visited Lundy – I’ll have to check, but I know she’ll be interested and will compare it to the Scilly Isles off Lands End, Cornwall.

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories


Believe Achieve - Hugo and Roxanne said...

Hi Hilary!

Gorgeous pictures of the Island! The Puffin bird is certainly very unique looking! And very cute, too. Not sure if it appreciates being called "clown of the ocean. LOL :-)

Many Blessings....

Hugo and Roxanne
Believe Achieve

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Roxanne and Hugo .. thanks .. and the Puffin is certainly unique .. I just love the way he carries his fish. Clown of the ocean - well at least he's having a laugh!

Glad you enjoyed the pics .. all the best
Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters

Giovanna Garcia said...

Hi Hilary

I agree with Hugo & Roxanne, the Puffin bird is cute and colorful. They almost look like they are from a cartoon.
Thanks for sharing.
Giovanna Garcia
Imperfect Action is better than No Action

Liara Covert said...

Had no idea puffins were native to the U.K. They are common to the shores of Newfoundland, Canada.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Gio .. they are so cute .. I had to get a picture with fish in their mouth .. and the island looks interesting too .. a good smugling place as well!

Thanks for visiting
Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Liara .. yes I gather that .. large colonies on the east coast of Canada ..- a good fishing area.

Thanks for being here -
Hilary Melton-Butcher
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Peter Baca said...

Hi Hilary,

You certainly write about the most interesting places to your blog....Lundy Island. The pirates stories were really quite fascinating...along with the puffins!

Thanks for your interesting post today!

Pete Baca
The Car Enthusiast Online

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Pete .. just like to keep you all interested! Glad you liked it - my uncle will be pleased as it was one he wanted me to write!

I find them so interesting too .. I'm really teaching myself something!

Thanks for visiting and being enthusiastic .. have a great 4th July weekend ..
Hilary Melton-Butcher
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Marketing Unscrambled, Home edition said...

Those are simply wonderful photos all of them. Thank you for letting us know more about this island and the history of it and the birds are great as well. We learn so much from you and your blog posts. Thank you for all of it. Good job.
Dan and Deanna "Marketing Unscrambled"

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Dan and Deanna ..just glad you liked the photos .. the history of our lands seems to represent all eras ..

it's great to see you here -
Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters