On Wednesday August 28thTeignmouth played host to his excellency Stefan Haukur Johannesson, Iceland’s
Ambassador to the UK, with a welcome by the Mayor of Teignmouth, Councillor Robert Phipps.
The occasion was the official unveiling of a prestigious Blue Plaque to honour Pike Ward, a Teignmouth businessman who spent 20 years living half of each year in Iceland and who transformed their fishing industry and, as a consequence, their whole economy. Until he arrived on the scene, sales of fish were by barter through traders, but Pike Ward dealt directly with the Icelandic people and paid them in gold, thus allowing them to progressively build up their fishing fleets into what they are today. The plaque is inscribed with “Much loved by the people of Iceland” and is located on “Old Maids Walk” on Teignmouth seafront.
Although a hero in Iceland, Pike Ward was largely unknown in Teignmouth, until his biographer Katherine Findlay discovered his diaries and published them as part of her book on him, entitled ‘The Icelandic Adventures of Pike Ward”.
The ceremony concluded with a performance by Teignmouth’s own shanty band, the “Back Beach Boyz”, who sang a song specially written by Ian Mitchell, one of the band, for the occasion.
After he retired, Pike Ward was awarded the Grand Cross of the Icelandic Falcon, the highest honour that the country can give to anyone other than a head of state.
An exhibition in honour of him is being held at the National Museum, in Iceland’s capital Reykjavik, from 19 September to 20 January.
Also there is a Pike Ward display at the Teign Heritage Centre in Teignmouth and, in addition, as part of the Teign Shanty Festival over the weekend of September 28th/29th, Katherine Findlay will be giving talks on his life at the Heritage Centre, where her book is also on sale.