Rolling Stone Charlie Watts remembered in Torridge village

Saturday 28th August 2021 5:59 am

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Tributes poured in from around the world this week following the death of Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts at 80. But a small Devon village is remembering the Stones’ drummer too.

As owner of Halsdon Manor, a 600-acre sixteenth-century estate, famed for Polish Arab thoroughbreds and run by his wife Shirely, Mr Watts was Dolton’s most famous resident.

A popular though rarely seen presence in the local community, by donating to local fundraising causes, the Watts were known with affection.  

And this month marks the tenth anniversary of Charlie making a surprise showing to lend a hand to re-open the village hall.

Susan Jury, who was a Dolton Parish councillor at the time and is still chair Dalton Village Hall fondly, remembers the day with the “lovely” couple. 

Although as prime donor only Shirley Watts had been invited as VIP guest, husband Charlie came along as support act and drummed up more publicity. “We had a bonus!” recalls Susan. 

“They were the last to leave the hall on that day,” she added.

But this hadn’t always been Mr Watt’s intention. According to Susan, the star sticks man had a car standing by outside because the cricket was on TV back at the manor. He’d decided that “if he wasn’t enjoying himself he was going home!”, Susan recalls.

He clearly got some satisfaction, staying on to chat to villagers.

Susan says that Mr and Mrs Watts were always “very generous” to the local community, and would be eager to support the attractive village. Their money helped pay for the village hall refurbishment.

“You’d write to them and you’d get a very nice cheque,” says Susan. “They always started us off with a very nice sum.

“It got to the extent that we tried not to ask them because it gets embarrassing – you can’t keep on asking people for money!”

Martin Lock, village hall caretaker at the time, said “They never forced themselves on the village. They were always there if you needed that extra bit of help with charity or fundraising.”

As much as she was a fan of the couple personally, Susan is not quite so keen on Mr Watt’s music: “I can’t tell you what I think of The Rolling Stones! I’m not a Stones fan. I do like my Elvis.”

Dolton Village Hall is “a very big part of the community” says Susan, hosting everything from mother and toddlers events, cub scouts, coffee mornings, Sunday lunches and yoga sessions.

Charlies Watts, Rolling Stones drummer and Dolton resident who died this week, is remembered as a gentleman and good neighbour. No one ever complained about the drumming.

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