Recounting story of 'hero' William - with help from an old Morris Minor and former MP Ann

Torbay Weekly

The story of Torquay Salvation Army hero William Robins is being spread far and wide – with a little help from an old Morris Minor, Torquay harbour and politician Ann Widdecombe.

The ‘life and times of William Robins' has been delivered to various groups and organisations by his great grandson Martin Robins, who lives in Wiltshire.

William made his name as a member of the Salvation Army in the early 1800s when he was jailed for marching on Torquay harbour breaching a clause in a local by-law.

He was sentenced to seven days in Exeter prison. He served four days and was then released to receive a rapturous welcome at Torre Station. Three bands celebrated his release.

The clause came to the notice of the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Henry Fowler, who was a prominent solicitor and a Methodist. He successfully reversed the clause after obtaining the signatures of 250 of the most prominent people in the land in a petition.

In total 20 Torquay Salvationists were jailed and in 2018 a ceremony was held at the Inner Harbour to honour those who became known as the Torquay Heroes. A plaque is now on the harbour wall commemorating the arrests.

Martin Robins has written a booklet of his great grandfather’s struggle entitled Bound To Win The Day. He needed something to illustrate it so the local authority allowed him to photograph his 1966 Morris Minor on the slipway at Torquay harbour.

The car also ended up in the hands of ex-MP and MEP Ann Widdecombe at her home on Dartmoor so she could take a trip down memory lane.

Martin said: "Ann purchased her Morris Minor in her university days from her godfather for £70. She named the car Methuselah – a gentlemen who lived to be 969!

"The car was kept for seven enjoyable, trouble-free years and then sold for £300. Happy days. When she sat in the Shropshire Minor all the memories came flooding back. It was simply wonderful."

Martin has owned his Shropshire-registered Minor, GNT 541D, since 2007.