Subject: Eel Pie Island
Date: Wed, 22 Jan 2003 23:30:04 -0000
I only stayed briefly on Eel Pie Island. Just for a month or two at the beginning of 1971. There was a mix of people then, some were quite unwell and there was a lot of inertia. Some people were fine. There was no electricity and people were breaking up floorboards for heating and hot water - the water, briefly turned off, was back on again.
Despite all that, I had a sense of optimism. Frank Williams and I got some paint, decorated a room and moved in. We started making candles and even sold a few. I enjoyed the river walks and breakfasts at Ted's Cafe. We used to go down to the Cabbage Patch in the evenings.
Then there was the drugs bust and that was that! Twenty three of us (including the barman) were arrested at the Cabbage Patch and charged with conspiracy for contravening the dangerous drugs act. I remember a sea of silver paper flying into the air as police arrived and the police picking it up and going round saying "that's yours" to one person and then "that yours" to another. We were all taken off to either Ashford Remand Centre or Holloway prior to being bailed. Fortunately, Ruth Stephens, who acted as a voluntary social worker got us an excellent solicitor.
It was summertime when the judge dismissed the case. By then I was staying with Frank and his parents in a game-keeper's cottage in a remote part of Norfolk. After the case was over we moved down to Cornwall. That was a long time ago.
The police didn't arrest EVERYONE in the pub but they arrested everyone in the pub who was staying on Eel Pie. It meant there were very few people left on Eel Pie after the arrest. A tramp then set fire to the building which meant Snapper got permission to pull it down and build luxury properties. There was a feeling that the conspiracy was more on the side of Snapper and the police, and people said that Snapper had paid the tramp to set the house ablaze.