Delderfield ‘character’ remembers Sidmouth author

Delderfield centenary celebrations bring back memories for Sally Sedgman

WHEN the effervescent Sally Sedgman read of Sidmouth’s plans to mark the centenary of its famous author, Ronald Delderfield, it brought memories of her association with the family flooding back.

Sally, former radio broadcaster and well-known after dinner speaker, was great friends with the novelist and playwright’s daughter, Veronica, and a bridesmaid at her wedding to Royal Marine Richard Persse.

Known as The Lady who Launches, because of her plummy “rounded vowels” accent, Sally remembers having a character in Delderfield’s novel Under an English Sky, based on her.

Delderfield writes of an air hostess: “Sally, 21 years old and with hundreds of thousands of flying miles in her log, it was like taking a trolley bus from her native Wilmslow to Manchester’s Piccadilly.

“She was a pretty, personably, talkative young lady with plenty of self-confidence and her gestures and pronouncement that derived from a conscious enjoyment of life.”

Sally’s copy was inscribed by Delderfield in 1965.

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Sally moved to Ireland with her parents before they returned to live in Exeter in the ‘50s.

Now living in Wiggaton, she said: “I went to a convent in Broadstairs, Kent, as a border and my first ever job was as a typist at Exeter Airport,” said Sally.

Then her employer asked if she’d like to become an air hostess and, at 19-and-a-half, she found herself looking after 36 passengers on a ‘plane after her request of �5 a week in wages was agreed.

“It was a fantastic opportunity to go to all these places. We had regular flights to Majorca, and I found myself in Egypt, Beirut and Jerusalem and I’d only ever been to Ireland.

“I was flattered to be in Ronnie’s book. I was not shy of the spotlight even then. I think he was interested in everything, as any true writer would be.”

Sally remembers socialising at 17 with Veronica and Royal Marines from Lympstone.

“We used to go to parties and Veronica was a great draw. She was blonde, busty, with a tiny waist in a red cord dress and tight belt. She was a most lovely girl.

“I used to go to the Delderfield’s house at Peak Hill and Ronnie had an antique shop in Newton Poppleford.

“I held Ronnie in very high regard. I think he was quite amused by me because I was not shy. When I married, my husband John and he were mad about Napoleon and at Peak Hill Ron had a battlefield put out with soldiers.”