Challenge 2: PAY TRIBUTE TO A LETTERBOXING HERO
Godfrey Swinscow is 98 today. A hugely impressive age for a gentleman and a legend, Godfrey is surely the Godfather of modern Letterboxing. I visited him earlier this afternoon in his care home near Dartmouth to wish him a Happy Birthday. I took with me a birthday card stamped by over 100 Letterboxers who attended Sunday's Meet at Lee Moor (massive thanks to you all!).
Back in the early 1980s, the National Park authority considered the eradication of this cheeky and unmannerly, if rather infant hobby. Godfrey was on hand to save Letterboxing, with the creation of the 100 club, and introduction of a code of conduct for siting boxes, and a system of Letterbox registration. The Park Authority were appeased, and Letterboxing is seen today as an attractive feature of Dartmoor by the DNPA, who call it "a great way to introduce children and young people to the joys of exploring Dartmoor and improve navigational skills".
Godfrey officially retired from Letterboxing 10 years ago. His enduring legacy within the Letterboxing activity and community were discussed at length at our table at the Meet. Several people noted the energy he demonstrated. How he welcomed them as newcomers to Letterboxing. He strongly encouraged the involvement of young people in the hobby. Some mentioned his Letterbox collection. It is widely believed that Godfrey owned a copy of every Letterbox sited until his retirement. A vast accumulation of stamps that the lucky few were invited to appreciate at his home. Many recalled how generous he was to them with time or knowledge. Almost everyone had a story to tell about Godfrey. How they first met, or how their friendship lasted.
Our family first met Godfrey some months before Letterboxing featured in our lives. His wife Anne - who wrote published books about Letterboxing - welcomed my Mother, Jill and a friend to stay during a charity horse ride in November 1990. As well as writing, Anne was heavily involved in the Riding for the Disabled Association. This single overnight stay led to a connection - a link - around cats. Anne and Godfrey also bred pedigree persian cats, and our family bought two. My Mother made the birthday card, and joined me at the Meet on Sunday. As Letterboxers, we met Godfrey on countless times at the Wednesday gatherings in Bovey Tracey, and at the bi-annual Meets. His perseverence and determination was incredible. I took several late night phone calls from him regarding my Letterbox's tough cryptic clues. No other Letterboxer was as persistent. Godfrey was tenacious and clever, a real legend of the hobby, and one I was delighted to meet again.
Godfrey was very cheerful today, but alas, his mobility limited by a wheelchair and afflicted with dementia, he did not recall me, or Dartmoor, or Letterboxing. He was very intrigued by the card, which I explained was filled with the personal stamps as well as love and best wishes of his friends. I'm not sure he will remember me now, but the card had a message that remains.
"Dear Godfrey. Wishing you the warmest and happiest of birthdays. We would like to take this moment as an opportunity to acknowledge all of your hard work and to tell you that we all appreciate your huge contribution to the Letterboxing community. Congratulations on celebrating your 98th birthday! With much love, your Letterboxing family"He was keen to shake my hand and make me feel welcome. He was truly grateful for the card and the visit. I left him saying that I look forward to seeing him again. Anne had left the home just prior to my visit, so perhaps when I return I will see them both.