Samuel Trick – The Barnstaple Grammar Old Boy

Samuel Trick – The Barnstaple Grammar Old Boy

A few years ago we were visited by the relatives of Samuel Trick who died serving his country in World War One, just a few weeks before the start of the Battle of Passchendaele. The family were looking for the letters he wrote to his former school – Barnstaple Grammar School where he had been a scholarship student before the war. The letters chronicled his time during training and his subsequent deployment to France and Belgium.

He originally joined the Devonshire Regiment before being transferred to the Machine Gun Corps.

I have been transferred to the Machine Guns and have, in fact, been here in Grantham since the 12th May…From morn till evening, we hear nothing but the pip-pip-pip of the guns, and sometimes the boom of a hand grenade.”

I was disappointed when I first came here, at getting marked “unfit.” To-day, however, I went before a Medical Board, and was marked “fit,” so I shall be able to see some Active Service after all; I hope so at any rate.

Rock Magazine, July 1916

July 1916 Vol1 No12

Rock Magazine, July 1916

Samuel’s next letters were published in the April edition of the school magazine in 1917,

I have not made any steps towards a commission, as I think I shall do better in the ranks. Training in a cadet battalion would take some time and I am longing to go overseas. I have had over a year’s training as it is. I am shortly getting my stripes as a Transport Sergeant.

Rock Magazine, April 1917

His next letter was written from France.

We are waiting now for the time when we shall go up to the line. I have a couple of decent chums, and we are having a good time…I am getting on with the French I learnt with you – helped out, of course, with a little pidgin English. The country round here reminds me of our Exmoor, while some sandhills not far off remind me of Saunton – so I am really quite at home with the surroundings.

Rock Magazine, April 1917

Rock Magazine April 1917

Rock Magazine, April 1917

Samuel’s last letters to the school were published in the same magazine as his obituary. He wrote of a “terrific thunderstorm” and about meeting up with people he knew…

I have met several old comrades from different companies. These unexpected meetings are often sad as well as joyful. The other day, for example, I heard my name shouted, and, turning around, recognised an old comrade who was in my company nearly a year ago. He told me that the company had lost a good many men who I knew. He himself had only just left the hospital. These things make you think and feel tired of it all at times.

Rock Magazine, July 1917

In another letter he wrote

I have not had a day’s sickness for nearly twelve months…Yes! things look a bit brighter now.”

Rock Magazine, July 1917

In his last letter to his old school Samuel wrote from Belgium.

The country here is very flat, but at this time of the year rather pretty – except where the enemy artillery has devastated the country-side. I passed through a village the other day where every house was shattered, church, wayside shrines, everything.

Rock Magazine, July 1917

He ended his last letter…

I am glad to say I am well. I hope the old School is still “going strong”

S. Trick (Belgium)

Rock Magazine, July 1917

His obituary in the school magazine covered three pages. Samuel had not had the easiest of times during his schooling having to leave on a few occasions due to ill-health and financial pressures. This did not seem to stop him however, as he finished his schooling and had become a student teacher at Barnstaple’s Holy Trinity Boys’ School by the time war had broken out. A post he remained in until the July of 1915 when he joined the Devons.

He was 20 years old when he died.

It is with great grief that we have just received the sad news that “Sammy” Trick was badly wounded on July 10th, and died very soon after admission to the Hospital.

Rock Magazine, July 1917

Tributes to Samule Trick were also paid in both the local newspapers. The North Devon Herald had the following article.

Samuel Trick NDH 1917-07-19 8b (2)

North Devon Herald 19th July 1917 page 8 column b

If you would like to read the published letters in full or learn more about our collections and ways to view them please visit our website or contact us.

…Barum Athena


Death of Barnstaple’s Grand Old Man – Thomas Wainwright

100 years ago today the local newspapers published the news of the death of perhaps the most well-known Librarians of the North Devon Athenaeum, Thomas Wainwright. Born in Leeds in 1826, Wainwright moved to Barstaple having spent time in London and Bridport. In trying to write a post about him I came accross this obituary for him in the North Devon Journal which was written by someone who knew him…

Thomas Wainwright - Harper Album 1-22It is with profound regret that we have to record the death of Mr. Thomas Wainwright, the Curator and Secretary of the North Devon Athenaeum, Barnstaple, who passed away on Friday morning in his 91st year. On the 7th of April he celebrated his 90th birthday, and then, despite his great age, he was able to discharge his official duties—as well as to devote some time on his birthday to the work of translating the ancient Latin Registers of the Bishop of Exeter. During Eastertide, however, he was taken ill with bronchitis, and sank so rapidly that on Thursday there was no hope of his recovery. The news of his decease caused general sorrow, for Mr. Wainwright was held in the highest estimation not only in Barnstaple but throughout a wide district. For half a century Mr. Wainwright was a leading figure in literary and scientific movements in North Devon. In the sixties he came to Barnstaple to conduct a private boarding school which had been established in Ebberly-lawn by Mr J. P. Harris, and in 1872 was appointed Head-master of Barum’s ancient Grammar School. He filled this position with great ability until 1890, when he resigned in order to become the Librarian of the Athenaeum—the gift to Barnstaple of his old friend, William Frederick Rock. For several years previously, Mr. Wainwright had acted Hon. Secretary of the Literary and Scientific Institution (High-street), of which the Athenaeum was the outcome and the development. The Athenaeum was fortunate indeed in securing as its Librarian such a man as Mr. Wainwright—scholar, antiquarian, and botanist. Mr. Wainwright was an authority on all matters pertaining to the history of North Devon in general and of Barnstaple in particular, and he was jointly responsible with the late Mr. J. R. Chanter for “Barnstaple Records”—a collection that is simply invaluable. He also published Barnstaple Parish Register. He was a frequent contributor to “Notes and Queries,” as well as to the local papers, of articles dealing with local history, and his wealth of antiquarian knowledge was ever at the disposal of students and inquirers. His collection of materials bearing on antiquarian research is monumental, and it will be of immense value to future historians.

One of the oldest members of the Devonshire Association (in connection with which he did valuable work), Mr. Wainwright was responsible (with Mr. W. P. Heirn, F.R.S.), for the inauguration of the local weekly botanical walks which for several years proved a delightful means of instruction to a band of enthusiastic students. The love of botany was a passion with him, and he maintained his custom of taking long country walks (a visit to Braunton Burrows, the “botanist’s paradise,” was for years a weekly pleasure) until he was almost a nonagenarian. For a long time it was his happy custom to place in the magazine room of the Athenaeum specimens of the wild flowers he gathered in his familiar rounds. Mr. Wainwright took an enthusiastic interest in meteorological affairs, and was the means of making the Athenaeum a centre for the collection of data relating to the whole of North Devon.

A keen educationalist, Mr. Wainwright was for ten years a member of Barnstaple School Board, acting as vice-chairman for some years. He was a devoted Churchman, and for eighteen years acted as Lay secretary of the Ruri-decanal Conference for Barnstaple and Shirwell. He had the kindliest and happiest of dispositions, and possessed a keen sense of humour. To know Thomas Wainwright was to honour and revere him.

NDJ 4th May 1916 5f

North Devon Journal 4th May 1916 page 5 column f

After his death the Directors closed the Athenaeum for nearly a month while they searched for his replacement and asked his daughter to stay on in living quarters she shared with him while they did so.

Thomas Wainwright left his mark on the North Devon Athenaeum. We continue the work he started in transcribing the parish records for future generations and just two days before the anniversary of his death a researcher was using his transcript of the Latin Registers he was working on when he died…

…Barum Athena