Twelve hours before Prince Andrew was due to attend the 150th anniversary celebrations of two Devon weekly newspapers, the heavens opened, the tide rose and the reception area disappeared under twelve inches of water.
The two Tindle Group newspapers, the Dartmouth Chronicle and the Kingsbridge Gazette, were launched in 1854 and have been celebrating their 150 years of existence.
The high spot of the celebrations was to be a visit by Prince Andrew, at a reception in Dartmouth. But the rains came down and by midnight on the night before the royal visit on Wednesday last week and the centre of Dartmouth was flooded.
Then the rescue operation started, led first by the fire brigade then by Tindle managers including the proprietor of the 174-newspaper group, Sir Ray Tindle, group managing director Brian Doel, regional managing director Mike Roberts, general manager Jackie Smith and editorial manager Gina Coles.
As the floods subsided, Sir Ray and the other managers started clearing away the debris and rescuing photographic displays floating in the water.
By morning the floods had gone and hastily-hired cleaning machines operated by the Tindle managers were drying out the carpets.
By midday, and the Prince’s arrival, visitors and guests couldn’t even guess at the drama of the previous 12 hours.
Prince Andrew visited the Chronicle offices, met the staff, unveiled plaques marking the anniversaries of the two newspapers, made a speech praising the part played by weekly newspapers in the life of the country, and was on his way, complete with a framed copy of the first edition of the Chronicle and a pair of 18th century silver berry spoons presented to him by Sir Ray.
Afterwards Sir Ray, who has owned the two newspapers for the past 18 years, said: “I am so pleased that the Duke of York honoured these two newspapers by attending our celebrations.
These papers are superb examples of local weeklies which have stood the test of time.
“All credit must go to the staff. A newspaper is only as good as the people who produce it and our staff are the best.”