© Noel Harrower 2015
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Dear Christmas letters and cards are going out rather earlier than usual this year because Jenny and I will be away over the holiday at an alternative retreat centre enjoying an escape from all the commercial hype.    This has been a memorable year – in which we have had the lovely experience of  celebrating the marriage of Alex and Sally-Ann Markham. We first met Sally last January when Alex brought his fiancée to Exmouth and we were very happy that they had found each other. We met Sally’s parents, Ian and Jean, some months later in Nottingham. (Alex is now working for Nottinghamshire C.I.D. and Sally is a microbiologist.) We all rejoiced with them when the wedding was held on September 9th at Anvil Hall, Gretna, on a bright and sunny afternoon. Jenny and I took the opportunity to have another Scottish holiday, flying to Glasgow and hiring a car a week before the wedding. We stayed on the Isle of Arran and in Largs, and then drove to Gretna via Annan, where I had picked up a black jacket and frilly shirt to go with my Murray kilt. (My mother’s ancestry entitles me to own this!) Jenny wore a light green suit, and joked that she was wearing the trousers and I the skirt. We met the wedding party the evening before the ceremony, and stayed in the Solway Lodge Hotel, where the reception was to take place. The marriage was conducted by a very pleasant Methodist minister and all went well, with a piper and a horse drawn carriage to boot. Alex and Sally-Ann had a honeymoon sailing down the Nile and are now safely back at their home in Nottingham. May they have many happy years together.      Our holiday continued with another visit to the Highlands and finally a short stay in Dunfermline, where I had a wonderful opportunity to meet Janette Fowlds and her sister, Margaret, who are distant cousins traced through the internet. We all descend from Robert Harrower and Jean Wilson, who tenanted Balgownie Farm, by Culross, in the 1730s. They were my great great-great-great-grandparents and their eldest son, who carried on the tenancy, was a g.g.g.g.grandfather to Janette and Margaret, whilst I descend from the third son of that family. (Interestingly, John and Malcolm Harrower,  with whom we also friendly, come from the second son.)  I wrote to the farm in advance and Sandy and Maggie Dalgleish welcomed us all for afternoon tea, heard our stories, told us theirs, took us to see the milking and drove us round the fields. It was a lovely experience. I have been so buried in Harrower family history that I have rather neglected the Murrays. My second cousin, Geoffrey Crighton, has helped me a little there, so I hope to explore this next year, after I have finished off three more articles about Harrowers for the Fife Family History Journal. Meanwhile, what of Devon? Jenny and I are enjoying living so close to the sea. Some friends from our Nottingham days have visited the area, and we have had the pleasure of taking them around. There are magnificent cliffs walks along the coast, and wonderful sunsets over the Exe valley, which we just catch a glimpse of through our living-room window. The river is a famous area for migrating birds, especially in the autumn and winter, and it is important to maintain the ecology of the area. I am a busy member of Exmouth Citizen’s Forum. We are hoping to prevent an ASDA Superstore from spoiling our estuary and ruining the economy of the town. It’s a tough fight, but we have the support of the local M.P. who has presented our petition, from   10,500 local citizens, to Parliament. We have managed to save our swimming pool on the site, but the battle continues. The District Council wants to sell some of their land to the highest bidder. Most of the Exmouth Councillors are Lib Dem. but the East Devon District Council, which is in the driving seat, has very strong Conservative control. David Cameron’s statements about the environment and local consultation are helping us, though. Hugo Swire, our Conservative M.P. is in his shadow cabinet, and arguments within the Conservative Party about East Devon have been quoted in the Independent and Private Eye.    I am also Events Officer for the Exeter Branch of the United Nations Association. In the spring, we had Lord David Hannay to speak at the University - a very successful and well-attended event, and we are planning a “Question Time” evening there in the New Year. Ben Bradshaw, M.P. for Exeter, has just replied to say he would like to join our panel, so we’re trying to find a suitable date.  A model General Assembly on Global Warming was also organized in Barnstaple last July, with pupils participating from three comprehensive schools. Glenorchy United Reformed Church, and the Open Door Centre are also part of my life. This may give the impression that I’m as busy as I was in Nottingham. Not really, the whole pace of life is slower down here, so there is often time for a nap in the afternoon. Jenny often finds me reading a book on the sofa with my eyes closed, so she says. We have both been active in the local Greenspirit group. As I write this, Jenny is practising one of her circle dances in the kitchen and the melodies are drifting through the flat.   Oh well…time to draw this letter to a close. May we all be blessed with a peaceful Christmas and New Year,                                                             Blessings,
Christmas 2006
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