Enough to Plague a Saint
In the days before motor coaches and minibuses, group travel was popularised by the charabanc. Charabancs could be heavy affairs, carrying over 30 passengers, but with thin tyres they sometimes struggled for grip and incidents of vehicles overturning, veering off the road, or failing to brake were common.
The only reported charabanc incident in Lapford, occurred on 25 October 1925. It involved the Topsham St. Margaret football team, ‘The Saints’. Charabancs had been key to the rapid growth of league football across the country and teams like The Saints were dependent upon them.
The Lapford charabanc accident occurred whilst the players were on their way to a match against Ilfracombe. The team were having a miserable start to the season: they had yet to win a game; transport costs had left them struggling for money; and, there was some unrest that players from outside the village had been brought into the team for the first time.
Sometime after passing Lapford Cross, the noise of The Saints vehicle frightened an approaching horse pulling a cart on which was mounted a plough. It resulted in the cart swerving into the charabanc and the plough ripping seating and the coat of one of the players.
Thankfully, a more serious accident was avoided by the actions of the charabanc driver, Frank Luxon (who went on to have a career as a lorry driver). His rapid braking successfully slowed the vehicle and avoided a 20 ft drop, but it wrenched the teeth from the back axle and the vehicle was no longer drivable. The players never made it to their match.
Four days after the incident, the team got some financial help in the form of a “Wembly Bazaar” fundraiser, celebrating a former player, Dick Pym, who was having rather better success than his old team. That season he won the FA Cup, the English Football League, and made his debut for England!
The Fisherman Footballer
Topsham St Margaret had once been the team of sea fisherman, Dick Pym, who went on to become a household name as goalkeeper for high-flying Bolton Wanderers and for England.
With Bolton he won the English League, twice, and the FA Cup three times (never, conceding a goal), including the first ever final at Wembley Stadium. His transfer to Bolton from Exeter City had been the world’s most expensive transfer and largely funded Exeter’s new St James’ Park ground. As an Exeter player he toured South America and played in the first ever competitive match by the national team of Brazil.
He ended his football career by managing and playing once more for his old Topsham club, and continued to enjoy his love of sea fishing. He holds the record for the longest living England player.