Dr.Syn - the Official Website

'Serve God; honour the King; but first maintain the Wall.' - Slogan of ROMNEY MARSH

Dymchurch Wall

Chapter 1. Dymchurch-under-the-wall

To those who have small knowledge of Kent let me say that the fishing village of Dymchurch-under-the-wall lies on the south coast midway between two of the ancient Cinque ports, Romney and Hythe.

In the days of George III, with Trafalgar still unfought, our coast watchmen swept with keen glasses the broad bend of the Channel; watched not for smugglers (for there was little in Dymchurch to attract the smuggler, with its flat coastline open all the way from Dover cliffs around Dungeness to Beachy Head), but for the French men-o'-war.

In spite of being perilously open to the dangers of the French coast, Dymchurch was a happy little village in those days—aye, and prosperous, too, for the Squire, Sir Antony Cobtree, though in his younger days a wild and reckless adventurer, a gambler and a duellist, had, of late years, resolved himself into a pattern Kentish squire, generous to the village, and so vastly popular. Equally popular was Doctor Syn, the vicar of Dymchurch: a pious and broad-minded cleric, with as great a taste for good Virginia tobacco and a glass of something hot as for the penning of long sermons which sent every one to sleep on Sundays. Still, it was clearly his duty to deliver these sermons, for, as I have said, he was a pious man, and although his congregation for the most part went to sleep, they were at great pains not to snore, because to offend the old Doctor would have been a lasting shame.

The little church was old and homely, within easy cry of the sea; and it was pleasant on Sunday evenings, during the Doctor's long extempore prayers, to hear the swish and the lapping and continual grinding of the waves upon the sand.

But church would come to an end at last, as most good things will, although there was a large proportion of the congregation— especially among the younger members—who considered that they could have even too much of a good thing.

The heavy drag of the long sermon and never-ending prayers was lifted, however, when the hymns began. There was something about the Dymchurch hymns that made them worth singing. True, there was no organ to lead them, but that didn't matter, for Mr. Rash, the schoolmaster—a sallow, lantern-jawed young man with a leaning toward music—would play over the tune on a fiddle, when led by the Doctor's sonorous voice, and seconded by the soul-splitting notes of Mipps, the sexton, the choir, recruited entirely from seamen whose voices had been cracked these many years at the tiller, would roll out some sturdy old tune like a giant p'an, shaking the very church with its fury, and sounding more like a rum-backed capstan song than a respectable, God-fearing hymn. They felt it was worth while kneeling through those long, long prayers to have a go at the hymns. The Doctor never chose solemn ones, or, if he did, it made no odds, for just the same were they bellowed like a chanty, and it was with a long-drawn note of regret that the seafaring choir drawled out the final Amen.

Excert from "Doctor Syn" by Russell Thorndike ©

The Wall, Dymchurch 1923  by Paul Nash © Tate London - Linking to the Work of Paul Nash

Return to Legacy Main Page

© 2009 - Harmony Design.Eu / J.C De Lara