Skip to main content

Western Gazette - an Appreciation

At one time, the Western Gazette was the most widely read newspaper across Dorset, Somerset and Wiltshire. Apart from the readership in the three counties it was also highly valued by those who had left these districts. One reader wrote:

‘I am not certain about Tibet or Mars but it is quite safe to say there is not a country on earth which does not receive its quota of Western Gazettes. In hundreds of cases, it is the only remaining link between exiles and the land of their birth.’

For one man in Kenya, it was reckoned to be part of his ritual every Sunday to sit on the equator and read his Gazette. Another read it overlooking Lake Victoria ‘not far from slimy crocodiles nearly 30 ft. long and hippopotami almost as big as submarines.’ In a little community not far from Calgary, in Alberta, Canada there were six families who regularly received the ‘Western’. Another, who had worked himself into a position of trust on the Canadian Pacific Railway called it the ‘Zet’, at one time its nickname in the Dorset villages. An old trapper in Canada, nicknamed the ‘Blandford poacher’ received his ‘old Western’ from his brother and what he read first was the police court news from Blandford and Wimborne. In all probability in the fullness of time his stiffened body would be found in his lonely shack on the illimitable prairie with old copies of the Western Gazette, his only reading material.  In Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, there was the same popular link between thousands of people and their homeland.

Many hundred copies of the Western Gazette were sent overseas from the publishing offices but still more were sent by friends and relatives. Many decades before the internet caused the closure of so many local newspapers, this writer to the Western Gazette prophetically wrote:

‘I have no doubt the Western Gazette will live and prosper until time and invention scrap newspapers as they scrap everything else in the unfolding of evolution.’

(Source: Western Gazette - Friday 24th August 1934.)


Popular posts from this blog

True Lovers Knot - a Tragic Tale

True Lovers Knot public house describes itself as a traditional  inn set in a picturesque Dorset valley in Tarrant Keynston. Yet, this historical hostelry is said to have gained its name from a particularly tragic tale and still to be haunted by a distressed former publican. This publican’s son met and fell in love with the daughter of the local squire. Because the young lad was not from the gentry they decided to keep their relationship secret from her father. Unfortunately, a stable hand saw the two young lovers together and told her father. Set firmly against this friendship the squire made plans to send his daughter away from the district. Not able to face up to life without her boyfriend, the young girl decided to commit suicide and hanged herself from a tree in the village. So upset was the publican’s son of hearing of his girlfriend’s death he too hanged himself from the same tree. The Tarrant Keynston publican had, himself lost his wife at child birth and now losing his son b

Tarrant Rushton's Nuclear Secret

Tarrant Rushton was a large RAF base used for glider operations during World War II. It was then taken over by Flight Refuelling for the conversion of aircraft for the development of aircraft in-flight refuelling. However, between 1958 & 1965, the Tarrant Rushton airfield had a much more secretive and less publicised role. This was in support of the nation’s nuclear bomber deterrent, as Tarrant Rushton airfield became a QRA (Quick Reaction Alert) dispersal unit.   During 1958, contractors Costain reinforced the main runway and carried out other work to ensure the giant bomber aircraft could be accommodated. At times just a few miles from Blandford, there would have been up to four RAF Vickers Valiant bombers at Tarrant Rushton ready to become airborne in minutes charged with nuclear weapons. The bombers were from 148 Squadron at RAF Marham in Norfolk. As there was no suitable accommodation at the airfield, an old US Air Force Hospital building at Martin was used. At the time, the

Chimney Sweep Tragedy

Crown Hotel, Blandford is reckoned to be one of Dorset’s oldest hostelries. Yet its most tragic day, during a long history, must surely be when a young chimney sweep lost his life. The chimney sweep, who was just a child, suffocated and was burnt to death in a Crown Hotel chimney which had been alight a little while before. ‘His cries were dreadful and no-one could give assistance. Part of the chimney was taken down before he was got out.’ (Salisbury & Winchester Gazette 27th March 1780) The lad had gone up one chimney and attempting to go down another had become stuck. At the time children were used to climb up chimneys to clean out soot deposits. With hands and knees, they would shimmy up narrow dark flue spaces packed thick with soot and debris. After the 1731 Great Fire of Blandford it was realised that it was important to sweep chimneys regularly while many rebuilt houses had narrower ones. Smaller chimneys and complicated flues were a potential death trap for children. The sw