Marilyn Thomas, right, with Wendy Eagles at the Salcombe Regis Fair 2019. Picture: Tony Charnock

Marilyn Thomas, who died of cancer in January this year, had donated her corneas for transplant.

She was secretary and co-ordinator of the East Devon Talking Newspaper, and also helped visually-impaired young people at the WESC Foundation in Exeter,  when her husband Haydn Thomas was deputy principal.

She has now been posthumously honoured with the Order of St John, which recognises tissue donors, and Mr Thomas has been told that her corneas have been transplanted into a 72-year-old man and an 83-year-old woman.

Mr Thomas said he hoped other people would be inspired to donate their corneas.

He said: “I received confirmation of the transplant with a sense of sadness and pride in equal measure.

“It is wonderful for me to know that a part of Marilyn is still alive in the world and helping someone else to see.”

The talking newspaper association's vice-chairman, Graham Mallaband, and Waitrose community lead Julie Marish Picture: Sid Vale Talking Newspaper

Listeners to the local talking newspaper service are to benefit from a donation from Waitrose’s Community Matters fund.

The charity was one of the three local causes chosen by the Sidmouth branch of the supermarket in January to benefit from the fund.

Each month £1,000 is divided between three charities, with the proportions decided by customer votes.

On Tuesday, March 3, the vice-chairman of the Sid Vale & Eastern Devon Talking Newspaper Association, Graham Mallaband, received a cheque for £430 from Julie Marish, Waitrose's Community Lead.

Mr Mallaband said: "The Talking Newspaper is enormously grateful to Waitrose and to its customers for helping to raise such a generous sum, which will significantly contribute to the purchase of much-needed new playback devices for our listeners."

The talking newspaper is a weekly recording of local news stories and features from the newspapers in the area, including the Sidmouth and Ottery Herald and Midweek Herald, for visually impaired people.

Anyone who would like to know more about the service should contact the registrar, Wendy Eagles, on PO Box 12, Sidmouth EX10 9DD, or call 07552 766382.

Jeremy Vine with Sid Vale Talking Newspapers chairman Haydn Thomas, left and members of the team. Ref shs 31 19TI 9476. Picture: Terry Ife

The broadcaster Jeremy Vine has visited the Sid Vale Talking Newspaper, in his capacity as patron, while on holiday in the area with his family.

He said he was looking forward to the Sidmouth Folk Festival, and described the Clock Tower Café as 'the best cake shop in the world'.

The chairman of the Sid Vale Talking Newspaper Association, Haydn Thomas, said: "Jeremy participated in the recording of our summer magazine by being interviewed about his life in broadcasting, and reading one of the features selected. After this session he met with volunteers and listeners.

"He explained that radio is his favourite medium as it provides pictures in sound, which is why he was so keen to accept the invitation to become our patron.

"Members were fully entertained with recorded extracts to illustrate his experiences as a broadcaster, both serious and madly comic. "His story about meeting Boris Johnson on two occasions has gone viral, been published in the New York Times, and had the audience in stitches, as well as being very revealing.

"Jeremy is a true professional who is skilled in his craft. It's a real coup to have him as our patron."

Mr Vine said: "It was wonderful to do the recording and meet the team. I am so chuffed to be part of what is a lifeline for people in the area. I was very nervous reading my bit because there are no retakes."

During his visit he told the Herald he was looking forward to seeing Lindisfarne at the Folk Festival on Thursday night, and generally enjoying the festival 'vibe'.

He said: "I'm not big into folk, but every time I go to the folk festival I decide I should be. I went there last year, and a couple of years ago. I've been a lot, I think it's really great, I love the vibe. And the beer, actually, as well."

He said he had already enjoyed visiting the Clock Tower Café. "It's the best cake shop in the world. It's unbelievable, every time I go there the cakes get a little bit bigger and a little bit better, it's stunning."

Anyone who would like to receive the talking newspaper should contact Wendy Eagles On 07552 766382.

Haydn and Marrilyn Thomas of Sid Vale and East Devon Talking Newspapers with listener Heidi James and her dog Spencer. Ref shs 39 18TI 2167. Picture: Terry Ife

Volunteers provide a weekly round-up of local news stories in audio format, for people with visual impairments

A talking newspaper service for people in the Sidmouth area with visual impairments has been described as a ‘lifeline’ by one of its listeners.

The Sid Vale and East Devon Talking Newspaper is a weekly recording of local news stories and features from the newspapers in the area, including the Sidmouth and Ottery Herald. It now has around 60 regular listeners.

Sidmouth resident Heidi James said: “It’s a lifeline really. Without it I would feel very isolated, because I wouldn’t know what was going on in the community and the surrounding area. I’m very grateful for it.”

But earlier this year, the talking newspaper service was in need of a lifeline itself after some of its long-standing volunteers stepped down after more than 20 years. Fortunately, during what could have been the organisation’s final meeting, a new management committee was formed, under the chairmanship of Haydn Thomas. His wife Marilyn came on board as secretary, and Wendy Eagles as registrar. Mr Thomas, a retired deputy principal of the Exeter-based WESC Foundation for learners with visual impairment, embarked on a drive to publicise the service and recruit volunteers.

“Over the last few months we have put a lot of effort into promoting it in doctors’ surgeries, health centres and opticians, and we’ve increased by 14 listeners,” he said. “We now have about 50 volunteers – readers, editors, producers and people who carry out the registering. There are seven teams and each team is doing a recording every week.”

He said the talking newspaper includes local news items and ongoing issues such as the beach management plan and the sale of the district council HQ at Knowle. “We always do a what’s on feature, and we select the events that are suitable for people with visual impairment.”

The service also produces a quarterly magazine. The new committee carried out a survey of listeners and found that, while some would have liked additional features such as sports coverage, the talking newspaper is very popular. “The feedback has been totally positive,” said Mr Thomas. “People look forward to it. People are happy with the items that we choose, and the talking magazine is particularly highly thought of.”

Anyone wishing to know more about the service should contact:

The Registrar

Wendy Eagles

PO Box 12 Sidmouth EX10 9DD

Tel: 07552 766382

The soon-to-be new co-registrar Wendy Eagles with Marilyn and Haydn Thomas, who will take on the chairman and co-ordinating editor roles with Flo Townsend – the current acting chair and co-ordinating editor.

Volunteers have stepped up to save the Sid Vale and East Devon Talking Newspaper, after fears were raised that it would have to close.

More than 40 people attended an extraordinary meeting, which was held about the future of the paper on Tuesday.

Acting chairman and co-ordinating editor Flo Townsend announced that she and two other colleagues, which included the paper’s treasurer and registrar, would be retiring at the end of March.

She said the organisation was also in desperate need of a chairman, which they had been coping without for around five years. They also need another editor.

The group was told that if no- one could step forward to fill the roles by the end of February, they would have to consider closing the paper down.

Flo said the number of people wanting the talking newspaper had dramatically fallen, especially in the last five years.

She added that 20 years ago they delivered around 250 to 300 recordings a week, but now it was more like 50 a week.

During the meeting, volunteers discussed whether there was still a need for the paper, which helps keep people with visual impairments up-to-date with the latest news and goings-on in their area.

Flo said: “Perhaps there isn’t the same need as there was.

“Technology is so good now and it has really enhanced what people with limited sight can do.

“But there is still a group of people who cannot access that technology and struggle with it and why should they have to?

“While they are still around there is a need for this paper.”

By the end of the meeting, four volunteers had stepped forward to fill four of five 

Haydn and Marilyn Thomas stepped up to take on the rolls of chairman and co-ordinating editor, while Wendy Eagles agreed to be a co-registrar and Mike Newman agreed to be the new treasurer.

The talking newspaper is still in need of an editor and asked anyone who could spare some time to consider taking on the roll.

Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call 01395 578420 if you are interested in giving a few hours a week to the cause or to find out more.