Visit the delightful Kent town of Dymchurch over the bank holiday weekend and be surprised by a Synful lot…that’s Syn not sin that is. For the town has embraced the ‘hero’ of the novels of their most famed son, Russell Thorndyke’s Smuggling Vicar – Dr Syn or the Scarecrow. But this is not some staid literary festival but an energetic and impressive tour de force, a colourful pageant.
Syns of the father
The event, which is done every even year, is believed to have arisen from a church fete in 1936. However, it is stated that the first Day of Syn was held in 1964 as a way of paying for St Peter & St Paul Parish Church’s roof repairs. The then Rector of Dymchurch, Reverend Ronald Meredith, and the Parochial Church Council made the decision to hold a pageant based on the Dr Syn stories and the author, Russell Thorndike gave his permission, but I would think he would be amazed to see it develop into Kent’s biggest free show. The event was so popular that it was formalised into the ‘Day of Syn’ in 1966 when a committee was formed.
It’s difficult to avoid all things Dr Syn in the town that weekend and I was amazed at the considerable authenticity of the town’s effort…it was like stepping back into the smugglers. Over the weekend the town is over-ran with press gangs, dragoons, smugglers and highwaymen! There is a whiff of gunpowder in the air and the sounds of shouting and shot is quite audible on the greens and beaches of the town when battles and fights are ‘re-enacted’ by the townsfolk supported by professional re-enactors and local players on the beach and around the pub. The dressing up even extending to the church service where the congregation are all very sinful!
Of course the event has attracted all the usual side attractions – face painting and Morris men- but it is the Smugglers of course which are the main attraction and indeed a world record attempt was made. What with blockbuster movies such as Pirates of the Caribbean, Dymchurch’s Day of Syn has really hit the zeitgeist and in its 50th anniversary year 2014 does not appear to be re-syn-did!