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Plaque for 'extraordinary man' council did not want to honour

By Herald Express  |  Posted: May 30, 2013

  • sailing vessel: The Tall Ship Jolie Brise in the Brixham harbour Andy Styles TQAS20130524A-002_C

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MORE than 200 people came to honour an 'extraordinary man' Brixham Town Council did not want to be associated with.

At least 120 members of Commander Evelyn George Martin's family and some 80 guests, civic and naval dignitaries, attended an event at the Berry Head Hotel where a Blue Plaque was unveiled in his honour.

Sylvia Spice, the 92-year-old niece of Cdr Martin, did the honours as the Jolie Brise Tall Ship, which he famously sailed to victory in the first Fastnet race, rounded the headland and came into sight.

Ian Handford, from the Torbay Civic Society, said: "Commander Martin was an extraordinary man. He was a sailor, a yachtsman, a trawlerman and an accomplished cricketer whose achievements are very important and worthy of a Blue Plaque.

"What a pity Brixham Town Council did not want anything to do with it."

Last year, the local council voted against spending £300 towards the cost of the plaque claiming that nobody in the town knew who Cdr Martin was.

In the end his family paid for the £800 plaque.

Second World War veterans, admirals and past commodores of the Royal Ocean Racing Club, editors of Yachting World, members of the Thames Barge preservation committee and representatives of the Royal Britannia Naval College all took part in the event.

Cdr Evelyn George Martin was the man behind one of the world's most famous yacht races and the winner of the first Fastnet race in 1923.

He lived in Brixham when not at school between his birth and the 1920s and was a trustee of the Berry Head estate until 1937.

When his father, Col Evelyn Martin, was posted overseas, a young Cdr Martin was sent to live with a family friend, Annie Hogg, of Berry Head House.

He had a boathouse on Battery beach and learned to sail with trawler men from the town.

He was involved in local regattas until the start of the Second World War when he enlisted local trawlermen to man tugs and bring back British soldiers from the Dunkirk beaches.

In 1923, Cdr Martin, who received an OBE for his services during the First World War, bought the Jolie Brise and sailed to victory in the first Fastnet race of 1925.

He was the founder of the Ocean Racing Club and its first commodore and lifelong admiral.

The Jolie Brise was moored in Brixham for the duration of the bank holiday weekend and took part in a heritage boat display.

A framed print of the Jolie Brise was presented to Brixham Town Council and will stay in the reception area of the Berry Head Hotel.

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