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Watching Verity Rising On Ilfracombe Pier

  • Date(s): 16/10/12
  • Address: The Pier
  • Postcode: EX34 9EQ
  • About:

    Report and Photographs by Steve Rudge

    Ruth dashed into the kitchen and said excitedly "a huge crane just went past".  So this was it, Verity would be rising today.

    We cleared the breakfast stuff away, waved the residents off for the day, bullied our son into doing the room tidies, changed into our civvies and dashed out of the door afraid that we might have missed the main event.

     It was 11am and the sun was shining.  Ruth was, unusually, a few paces ahead of me as we made our way along The Quay. She didn't stop to browse the shoe shop window and even passed the Driftwood Gallery without so much as a sideways glance. We rounded The Pier Tavern and there was Verity, prone, flat on her back with her feet poking out of the 'tent' just as she had been yesterday. Phew, we hadn't missed it!

    There were people milling about all around the outside of the fenced off enclosure containing the crane, the flatbed trucks, the tent and of course Verity herself. Inside the enclosure there were workmen in yellow jackets, other in orange jackets and yet more in red boiler suits. They were mostly stood about in small groups chatting and smoking. The sense of urgency was underwhelming.

    We started to notice the media contingent. Vans with satellite dishes on the roof. People with Sky and BBC logos on their jackets carrying microphones and video cameras. Others with expensive looking SLR cameras that had big white zoom lenses attached. Their behaviour mirrored that of the workmen. They too were stood around in small groups, chatting and smoking.

    We joined the spectators on the sea wall at the foot of Lantern Hill, formed ourselves into a small group and started chatting and smoking, it seemed like the thing to do. Some had been there since 7am. The rumour was that she was due to go up at about 1pm, an hour and a half away. We were approached by a young lady who said that she was from Sky. She asked us what we thought of the statue and when we responded positively she looked disappointed, thanked us and moved on. Someone told us that she had been searching in vain all morning for an interviewee with something negative to say.

    As 1pm approached there was some activity in the area where she would eventually stand, but little else. Verity was still in her tent . The mayoress said that 3pm was the latest estimate. We had skipped breakfast so we rushed to Adele's for a sandwich and rushed back, afraid that something might happen in our absence. It didn't.

    As 3pm approached Verity was still in her tent. The chatting and smoking become a little more intense. People were becoming nervous, some looked a bit worried. There were rumours that there was a problem with her base or plinth or whatever she would be standing on.  5pm was the latest estimate. At least the sun was shining and we had enjoyed the chatting and smoking all afternoon.

    Then quite suddenly and without warning  the tent moved. It was pulled away and there she lay, fully revealed for the first time. There was a smattering of applause and self-conscious cheering from among the spectators. The chatting and smoking stopped abruptly and we all moved closer to the fence to see what was happening.

    The excitement grew as a red boiler suit started wrapping straps around her. A barely visible workman seemed to be doing something to her back with a brush and a blowtorch. The big crane took up the slack on the straps. A smaller crane was positioned near her feet and attached with ropes. The diesel engine on the big crane came to life with a big puff of smoke from its exhaust. We watched with bated breath, awestruck, as Verity at long last began to rise.