Sidmouth Herald readers helped decorating dad solve mystery

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A POLICE officer’s plea over a war-time message has revealed how a family tradition has survived seven decades – and can be found in scores of Sidmouth homes.

Herald readers have helped decorating dad Dave Wallace solve the mystery of a hand-written memo he discovered while stripping wallpaper in his house.

Dave, 46, uncovered a note, penned by Dennis McLeod in September 1944, that read: “Germany is on the run at last. It won’t be long now.”

Relatives of Dennis, who died in 1984, say the painter and decorator, from Brewery Lane, always left a unique and topical remark – and his descendents have continued the trait to this day.

“As a family, we’ve carried on the tradition of writing on the walls every time a room is decorated, which is an ongoing source of great amusement and nostalgia,” said Dennis’ grandson, Paul Santer.

“There’s houses all over Sidmouth with these messages - he was quite a character,” said Dennis’ son-in-law Ivan Santer, 82, of Winslade Road.

“They are always topical comments on things happening at the time.

“I’ve been in this house since 1956 and dare not move as there’s too much under the wallpaper!”

The painting and decorating profession still runs through the family.

Ivan’s grandson, Adrian Baker, 28, of Ottery, has taken on the trade.

Ivan’s youngest daughter, Lesley Rule, married painter and decorator Nick.

Both Adrian and Nick adhere to the family tradition.

Dennis McLeod ran the family painting, decorating and signwriting business in Sidmouth with his younger brother, Malcolm.

The firm was started by their dad, HG McLeod, and became established as one of the most reputable and professional decorating firms in the town.

Dennis played rugby for Sidmouth, fought in the First World War and joined the ranks of the Home Guard during World War Two, while also entertaining American troops stationed locally with music and comedy routines.

He lived in Brewery Lane with wife, Nel, and the couple had a daughter, Joan, who died in 2006.

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