Book detailing life of young war widows set for launch in Honiton

PUBLISHED: 11:00 13 October 2017

Kirstine at the Highland Fling.

Kirstine at the Highland Fling.

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Honiton’s Boston Tea Party to host book launch about The Seagull Hotel

Kirstine Richards. Kirstine Richards.

The true story of two young war widows, who battle in post-war Britain to establish one of Devon’s best-known gourmet hotels of the 1940s and ’50s, is being celebrated with a book launch event in Honiton.

‘The Seagull Hotel’, penned by hotelier and artist Kirstine Richards is to be given a launch this Saturday (October 14) at The Boston Tea Party - the same premises that launched the author’s culinary adventures in the 1930s.

Kirstine, who originally moved from Scotland as a young woman to work as an artist painting pots at the famous Honiton Pottery, ran the café as the busy Highland Fling tearoom back in the 1930s.

There, she honed her culinary skills before meeting her husband and raising their young family in Honiton.

The Highland Fling. The Highland Fling.

However, her husband was soon sent off to war.

The Seagull Hotel tells how Kirstine and friend Gerdy Ramsay, two young war widows with children in 1945, battle to survive and overcome financial hardship and male chauvinist attitudes of the time to build a successful hotel on Exmouth beachfront and turn it into a gastronomic destination, recommended by leading food writers of the day.

In an era of ration cards and bank managers, who still refused business loans to single women, they use their charm, wit and intelligence to beat the odds.

Kirstine was a prolific writer, but never thought of approaching publishers herself. Twenty-eight years after her death, her story is finally told.

The manuscript for the book lay forgotten in a box of Kirstine’s old papers until three years ago when it was re-discovered by her son Dr Nick Richards, a former Royal Navy doctor.

So impressed by his mother’s talent for writing, he teamed up with sister Louanne, a former dancer with the Royal Ballet, to edit the manuscript and get it published through YouCaxton Publications.

They will both be attending the public book launch at The Boston Tea Party, in High Street, at 3pm, along with other members of Kirstine’s family. There will be readings along with complimentary servings of cream teas and cake.

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