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James Edward Blacksell 1912 - 1987


Margaret Reed, Barnstaple historian, has written here about James Edward Blacksell, sometimes known as 'Blackie', who was a Barnstaple teacher and headmaster, a national promoter of the Arts, an important member of the Guinea Pig Club in East Grinstead in World War II, and a resident of Pilton for almost 50 years.

Born in West Yorkshire in 1912, he came to Barnstaple to work as a teacher at Barnstaple Senior Boys' School just before the outbreak of World War II, shortly after marrying Joan Simmonds Yates in Lancashire. They lived first in Abbey Road and, after becoming Headmaster of the Boys' School in 1951, moved to live at nearby Orchard House, Bellaire. They had three successful sons, Andrew, Simon and Henry, and a daughter, Rosalind.

For his work with the Guinea Pig Club, which was formed to rehabilitate badly burned and disfigured aircrew from World War II, Edward was awarded the MBE. He was also greatly involved in the arts scene, and co-founded of the Taw & Torridge Festival in 1951 which involved many famous names from the world of the arts. He was also involved with The English Stage Company in bringing modern authors to the London stage.

He and his wife died within a month of each other in 1987.

Many thanks to Margaret Reed for preparing this account of his life.

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