An Outside Opinion of Ryde
Isle of Wight Observer August 23rd, 1884
In the course of an interesting article on the Isle of Wight a correspondent of the Daily Telegraph writes as follows: As a pleasure place, Ryde is half-hearted. It seems to have no confidence in itself, and its good relations, as exemplified by the Esplanade, are not resolute enough to reach a perfected intention. Let us hope that this state of thing will not much longer afflict so fair a town. The race is not always to the swift, but eventually the persevering are in the first flight; and if Ryde has permitted its rivals to go ahead that is no reason why it should fail to make up the lost ground. As a matter of fact, the only difficulty is the unfortunate sea-front. The Pier still remains a pleasant place, in spite of steam trams and railway trains; in spite, also, of the fact that the roof of the Pavilion, so much favoured by visitors, has been let to a yacht club, and that an elaborate complication of turnstiles brings one up sharp now and then with a demand for coppers. No company, limited or unlimited, can spoil the view from the pier head, or make it other than a glorious panorama of land and water; a place where, for the nonce, the petty cares and troubles of life are borne away on the breeze, and existence seems a gift to be thankful for. In the evening there is music on the Pier, generally that of a military band from Portsmouth; but even in this important regard the half-heartedness of Ryde comes out. Of course the Pier Company will do as it lists, and must be credited with some very good commercial reason for not turning on its music till August, but we have a right to ask why the Esplanade Gardens are dumb all the day long. Do the Town Council abjure music as a vain delight? Or are they fastidious and unable to reach an ideal, short of which the corporate mind declines to recognise anything as worth having? In either case might there soon be a change. Ryde should be eloquent with music that befits the charming spot on which it stands. Even as an investment the thing would recoup the, no doubt, groaning ratepayer, and it must emphatically be stated that if the natives fancy the ear of imagination can discover music enough in the natural noises of their island they are wrong. The “muddy vesture of decay” has to be reckoned with now as when Jessica’s attention was called to the stars that each in his orbit “like an angel sings, Still quiring to the young-ey’d cherubins”. Jessica’s gaze, we fancy, would at once have dropped from the heavens had a lute twanged in the gardens below. An entirely satisfactory feature of Ryde is its bathing pier – a happy example of half-heartedness turned to account. Its projectors having stopped mid-way to their seaward goal, the idea of a bathing-stage redeemed their effort from absolute disaster, and ladies and men can bathe under conditions not only decent, but comfortable and absolutely safe. Of course, if a swimmer goes outside the barriers and away to sea, he does so at his own risk; but by keeping inside there is no risk at all. The bather, moreover, can choose his own depth of water, and dive from the top of the dressing rooms, or waist-deep, and ingloriously splash with the boys. Of Ryde as a residential town too much cannot be said. Well supplied with pure water, admirably drained, with streets kept scrupulously clean, and every advantage taken of any natural beauties of site, it is a model borough, while, in at least one respect, it may claim to be specially enviable. A clause in the local Act enables the Mayor to keep the streets free from unnecessary noises. Without his permission no sackbut, psaltery, dulcimer or nay kind of music can make itself heard in the thoroughfares. There the organ-grinder dare not touch his instrument of torture; there the piano-organ ceases its maddening scales and arpeggios, and the enlightened Teutons who come over to make music in a “barbarous country,” not able to make it for herself, are powerless for evil. So well does the present Mayor, Mr Ald Colenutt, exercise his prerogative that even the Salvation Army is reduced to silence. They parade the streets and fly their banners, but their songs are of the heart, not of the tongue. Facts like these go a great way to make up for the short-comings of Ryde in other respects, and even Hogarth’s “Enraged Musician”, could he live again, might be tempted to dwell in the town; charmed by a municipal government which, if it do not encourage good music, absolutely prohibits that which is bad.