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General Discussion

Origin of the black swans to Dawlish.

16 Apr 2022 15:26

It may come as a surprise to some but after extensive research by a group of volunteers at the museum,in conjunction with the researchers of the local History Group, it seems that the story of a Dawlish born 'John Nash' being responsible in 1906 for the introduction of the first black swans may turn out be an urban myth. Although it is prevalent on many holiday camp websites,Devon Live, ITV.Com, books and many news articles etc on investigation a whole new story emerges, as can be seen on the Museums Facebook page if you care to take a look.The genealogists were unable to find any trace of a John Nash or Nash family he supposedly returned to visit and there are no records in the newspapers or council minutes of his 'gift' to the town. By contrast there is strong evidence of a Mr W French of 22 Barton Crescent, who is present on the census, and moved to Dawlish just 3 years prior to October 1907 when he is credited in two newspapers of gifting to the town a pair of black swans among other waterfowl. He is thanked by the council and receives a special mention in their minutes which adds further questions as to why a Dawlish borne man would not receive such a similar thank you.The other fitting bit of evidence is that the earliest picture of a pair of black swans taken by Chapman and Sons has now come to light and is dated early 1908 in their records and listed  as 'the first pair of black swans'. Obviously the museum and History Group keep an open mind on such matters and if anyone can help as to how and when the 'John Nash' story first evolved we would love to know and investigate further. On a side note John Nash Drive which some people seem to believe was named after the 'swan' man is actually named after the architect ( 1752 to 1835 ) of Luscombe Castle .

This has become important of late as fact is being mixed with theory and when the new Heritage Boards were being produced for around the town they were surprised that as a museum and historical society we were unable to give a clear answer to a seemingly simple question, hence our attempts to avoid confusion in the future if we can. Many thanks for taking the time to read this-any thoughts or comments?

1 Agree
17 Apr 2022 05:33

Congrats on the research. 

It's always of interest to see what can be unearthed with a bit of 'drilling down' into papers and the like.

4 Agrees
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