AN AUSTRALIAN visitor has retraced the steps of his father, who grew up in Tavistock and wooed his wife on the banks of the River Tavy before migrating to Australia.

Barry Hoare and his wife Debbie are visiting West Devon to delve into the past of Barry’s dad Albert Dennis Hoare (known as Dennis) whose father Albert ran a barbers shop at 5 Brook Street, next to Paddon’s Row.

The couple, from Sydney, retraced the steps of Dennis when he wooed his wife-to-be Marlene (Barry and his brother Martyn’s mother). Their parents met when she was a dental nurse in Tavistock and he a dental technician. They walked together during their lunch breaks and one time, her hat blew off into the river and he waded in to his waist to recover it.

“My mum was so impressed that he didn’t offer to buy a new hat for her, but got soaked for her,” said Barry. “At that moment she knew he was the man for her. Dad proposed to her later at the same spot. It’s a very romantic walk by the river, so we decided to go there to remember my mum and dad while on our detective mission.”

Dennis Hoare at Tavistock Grammar School, middle back row. Picture courtesy of Tavistock Memories by Trevor James (Amberley Publishing)
Dennis Hoare at Tavistock Grammar School, middle back row. Picture courtesy of Tavistock Memories by Trevor James (Amberley Publishing) (Tavistock Memories by Trevor James by Amberley Publishing)

Dennis Hoare was one of four sons barber Albert Hoare (Barry’s grandad) and they all worked in his barbers shop on Brook Street.

Barry and his brother Martyn were brought up in the north east of England, before, at the ages of nine and 11, in 1969, they emigrated to Australia with their parents.

They went by ship and unfortunately, their house burned down while en-route and were forced to live in a caravan in their new homeland: “It was far from the dream we were shown in the brochures by dad. Then were told not to go for a wee at night because of poisonous spiders. Me and my brother had serious second thoughts about staying.”

Dennis Hoare marrying Marlene of Tavistock 1953.
Dennis Hoare marrying Marlene of Tavistock 1953. (Submitted)

Barry said: “My Dad was so proud to come from Tavistock and it’s something that has drawn us 15,000 miles to experience. He died in 2021 and we were sparked into coming by him ordering a history book from England about the town. By pure coincidence, the book was about his dad’s barbers and had a photo of dad as a school boy at Tavistock Grammar School looking very dapper.

“Mum died several years before him and we encouraged dad’s interest to keep up his morale. We can see why he liked it here. This is the second time only in my life I’ve been to Tavistock – the first was while on a kind of ‘farewell tour’ when my dad drove from Seaton Carew, near Hartlepool, but that was sixty odd years ago.”

They received help from Tavistock Library and Tavistock Museum. Barry said: “Our search has been a bit surreal. We feel dad has been a second sat nav guiding us because of all the help we’ve had.”

Albert was described as a walking advert for his father's business, with his ‘copious, jet black hair sleeked back in a shiny mass above a rounded, good-looking face’.