Removing belongings after a storm, with assistance from local sea scouts
As well as quoting from their interviews with individual residents reporters would
sometimes comment upon the psychological reactions of the villagers. Indeed on Wednesday
23 September 1903, a few days after major storms, the representative of the Western
Daily Mercury asserted that “The Hallsander is a study for the psychologist at this
moment.” The reporter was puzzled that “The man is in deadly peril ― he says so himself
― and all the while he goes about his daily task with consummate indifference.” He
had observed that despite some anxiety there was “not a trace of excitement to be
found anywhere”. He speculated that the possibilities of the situation had not yet
been appreciated, but immediately acknowledged this could not be true as he had heard
a number of men discussing the prospects of the whole village being eventually swept
away. He was more willing to attribute their calmness to the inherent fortitude of
their race and calling.
On 14 December 1903, after further damage had been inflicted, the Western Morning
News reported that things were indeed gloomy out at Hallsands. The gloom was enhanced
by the fact that the villagers themselves were unable to do anything to help themselves,
being totally reliant on assistance and funds from elsewhere.
Less than two months later, the WMN’s representative found that the fishermen were
in a more despondent state than at any time since the village was threatened. They
considered that the new sea wall would not stand, that the money spent on it was
practically wasted. It would have been better to spend the money on building a new
village at a spot further inland. They now believed that nothing could save the present
On 21 March 1904 the reporter identified by the initials AES again observed the patience
and sense of resignation among the villagers. He did, though, wish to lodge one complaint
against their impassivity, that they could have done more to help themselves. They
could, for example, have collected the larger stones on the beach to prevent them
being driven against houses and walls during the rougher high tides. He realised,
however, that any initiative was paralysed by the sense of injustice felt by the
villagers, together with their despair of any return to days more prosperous. AES
also noted the use of humour by the villagers. One of them remarked that the beach
had not disappeared, but “they had took it away to Plymouth”.
Another theme running through the press reports of 1903-04 and again in 1917 is the
strength of support for the people of Hallsands from others in the area and from
individuals who had power, resources, or expertise to assist them. Indeed, the frequency
and depth of reports on Hallsands in the press both reflect the general interest
and concern felt in the region and must also have tended to sustain it. In addition,
as we have seen, the Western Morning News organised a relief fund that led to the
building of four houses on the cliff top in 1904.
Inhabitants of neighbouring villages on the coast, especially Beesands and Torcross,
were connected to the people of Hallsands by ties of marriage and their shared engagement
in the fishing industry. From time to time the newspapers would describe the help
they offered in removing furniture and possessions, and in providing temporary accommodation.
Two individuals who gave important support to the people of Hallsands were Frank
Mildmay, MP, and R Hansford Worth. Their contributions were fully acknowledged by
the press. For example, the Western Morning News reported in detail on a visit made
by Frank Mildmay to Hallsands on 16 October 1903 to see at first hand the recent
damage. There was a meeting with local people in the reading room, when “Mr Mildmay,
who was enthusiastically received, said that he was exceedingly glad that an opportunity
had presented itself for himself to see what was really going on at Hallsands. He
recognised that it was always better to see for oneself rather than take all that
was said by authorities (Hear, hear.)”
On 2 February 1904 the WMN published a very long letter from Frank Mildmay in which
he described his negotiations with the Treasury, the Board of Trade, and Sir John
Jackson over the amount of compensation to be paid to the villagers. He had succeeded
in increasing the total amount to £2000, a sum that included £250 donated by himself.
As it happens, this amount was not accepted by the villagers, and, as mentioned earlier,
it was afterwards further increased to £3250, including Mildmay’s own donation.