Ernest Pym

It is always pleasing to find a free site for genealogy and when you can search by place and there is an entry for your #OnePlaceStudy, even more so. The site in question is and this is the sad article I found, 24th December 1898, regarding a young headmaster of Sticklepath board school.

To understand the article’s title, it may help to know more about the symbolism of acacia in freemasonry. Essentially the Jews have long considered acacia to be a most holy tree as God chose it with which to build the ark of the covenant to house the stones of the ten Commandments. As a sweet smelling evergreen which grows in the most inhospitable environments it is a symbol of the immortality of the soul, and used during ceremonies of the Freemasons.

(V.B.D.R. is not a familiar abbreviation but may be Volunteer Battalion of the Devon Regiment.)

“A Sprig of Acacia”

On Monday the funeral took place of Bro. E Pym, who was only 27 years of age, and commenced his career as pupil teacher under St. Thomas School Board, Exeter. In 1892 he proceeded to Exeter Diocesan Training College, and after being assistant master at Cullompton National School returned to his former school in the same capacity.

He was a few years since appointed to the head mastership of the Sticklepath Board School, and endeared himself both to the parents and children, and took an active interest in local matters.

He was a member of the cyclist section of the 4th V.B.D.R., who were represented at the funeral by Sergeant-Instructor Perry.

Deceased was also a member of Lodge Obedience, 1753, Okehampton, and filled the office of assistant organist.

In 1897 his health gave way, and he took a 6 months rest. At the expiration of the term he resumed duties at Challacombe as head master, but was shortly obliged to relinquish the post, and returned to his native village, where, on 14th inst., he peacefully passed away.

From my family collection. Mr Pym, Schoolmaster. Dating clues- Taken by G Denney&Co Exeter and Teignmouth. Denney, G & Co – Exeter, Devon -1893-1902 George Denney was born in London around 1835 and in 1891 was living in Teignmouth, Devon, with his wife and two daughters. His occupation is given as artist & photographer. Dark green mount: Stronger shades such as bottle green, black, chocolate brown and maroon mounts were fashionable 1884-1905. Perhaps taken to celebrate his appointment as head c.1894?

According to “A Village School Chronicle 1879-1979” by Victor W. Hutchison, the headmaster of Sticklepath school from 1894-1897 was Ernest William Pym. A summary and timeline of the school can be found here .

Ernest William was baptised 5 Feb 1871 in Drewsteignton, Devon, and the baptism record helpfully names his father William Grimsher Pym and his mother Lucy Holman Pym. He appears in the 2 April 1871 census aged 3 months, living with his father, his mother and his grandmother Jane Bevens. All three were or are school teachers at that time. His mother’s imputed maiden name is compatible with the birth index:

FindMyPast have Drewsteignton school admission registers in which he appears as a pupil. By 1871 his parents have employed a 14 year old servant and Ernest is a ‘scholar’. By 1891, as we may expect from the obituary, he is lodging at 113 Regent Street, St Thomas, Exeter along with a fellow elementary school teacher Thomas P Langley with a family named Lacon.

The Exeter and Plymouth Gazette announce “Mr. Pym, of St. Thomas, has been elected Headmaster at Sticklepath Board School” on 15th and 16th February 1894 and by that August he is already on the committee helping to organise the village flower show.

The Gazette again mentions him in April 1895 as he plays the death march from Saul on the organ for the funeral of Rev Chichester in Drewsteignton. The latter gentleman was very involved with schools both in Drewsteignton and Whiddon Down.

Following Mr Pym’s own demise, probate was awarded 10 January 1899 in Exeter. This confirms the date of death, mentions he was a school master, and intriguingly names Miss Kate Bowden, Spinster as executor. He left £366 13s 6d. Another name to investigate….

I do not (yet) know where he was living when working as headmaster of Sticklepath School.

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