The Zimapanners







Life at Zimapan   



The Sincocks



Zimapan (Aug 1955-Oct 1956)

During the first 15 months in their new appointments in Cornwall, Anne and Francis Peter Sincock rented rooms in the back part of Zimapan. "I think we saw an advert in the West Briton. It was certainly a case of any port in a storm; somewhere to live while our new house was being built in Bodmin Road, Truro." During that time, they became friends with their landlord and landlady, Daisy May and Joseph de L'Arbre de Malander, aka the Dees. "The Dees were very kind to us, Mrs Dee being very helpful during my wife's illness. They treated us like their own children."


New jobs in Cornwall

In 1955, after three years teaching in the Black Country, Peter wanted to move back to Cornwall. After spotting an advert in the Times Educational Supplement, he applied for the job of teaching religious education and technical drawing at the boy's secondary school in Truro. Anne found herself a job as Lady Almoner at Barncoose Hospital after spotting an advert in the Almoners' Journal. As far as Peter can recall, paying the rent was very informal and simply involved paying over some money to the Dees each month. "There was nothing as elaborate as a rent book."



"Conditions at Zimapan were somewhat spartan", Peter recalls. "The accommodation was very basic to say the least; two up and two down. Our 'bit' was to the right of the tall chimney.1 We had a very basic kitchen, which is why we spent a great deal of time with the Dees in their kitchen. There was no inside loo, just an earth closet where everything went and where you just threw down the odd bucket of water. Where it went I know not! There was no smell as I remember. I presume that there must have been an underground watercourse which carried all away. There was no hot water supply then. Bathing was done in a zinc bath that hung on the outside wall by the back door. The water butts that can be seen in the right-hand photograph of the website's home page were not outside the back door back then."


Kind, generous and eccentric couple

Although the Dees were "not a very sociable couple—they kept themselves very much to themselves—they were extremely kind and very generous" towards Peter and Anne Sincock during their 15-month tenancy. Although the Dees were "certainly eccentric, we were never taken in by their titles and we never inquired, however tactfully, about their backgrounds. Joseph, whose English was accented but easily understandable, was as a gentleman, and rarely spoke about his Belgian background."


Fish out of water

Mrs Dee, like Joseph, was also "very reticent" about herself, but "could be quite effusive at times. She had a short fuse, but it never lasted for any length of time. She could be a little sharp with Joseph at times, but Anne and I attributed any oddities in her behaviour to her being a Londoner; she was a bit like a fish out of water in rural Cornwall." However, Mrs Dee had a "kind and generous nature", Peter recalls, exemplified by the fact that she was always ready to supply the Sincocks with their hot-water needs.


Games evenings

Although the Dees were regarded as not a very sociable couple by the locals, the Sincocks enjoyed many enjoyable games evenings with them. "We played canasta, whist and gin rummy in their large sitting room in the main part of the house [ed. front]. Joseph was usually shirted during those evenings, although not so much in the spring and summer months. I remember a good deal of laughter; the result of jokes or general bonhomie."


Joseph's rotavating business

Joseph had a rotavating business which took up a great deal of his time, and perhaps conveniently, got Joseph out of the house. "I think he was more interested in looking after other people's gardens than his own. He'd go quite far afield to do somebody's garden, allotment or smallholding. Joseph kept a Howard Gem rotavator outside the garden wall, which he took around to smallholdings and ploughed up people's fields, usually shirtless, right up to the first frosts!" Peter never accompanied Joseph when he went rotavating.


Dogs were Mrs Dee's main love

Peter remembers some of the dogs which Joseph and Daisy May bred and had around the house. "The dogs were Mrs Dee's main love. Sultan, an Old English Mastiff, a giant of a dog, was the most docile dog I have ever met," Peter says. "He would allow children and adults to ride on his back and was the pride of Zimapan."


Mrs Dee's family

Peter recalls meeting some of Mrs Dee's family, particularly some children living at Carharrack. "Mrs Dee had a son or nephew2 who lived on the outskirts of Carharrack" who, like Joseph, also bred Old English Mastiffs, "but his line was a much more aggressive one" than Joseph's, who bred "docile" dogs. "I believe the son/nephew moved up to Hebden Bridge in Yorkshire sometime in late 1956."


Driving dogs to Southampton

During a the school holidays, Joseph and Peter drove down to Southampton a couple of times transporting some of Joseph's dogs in the back of the car. On arrival, the dogs were shipped on the Queen Mary to their new owners in the United States. ''On one occasion, we nearly lost a Newfoundland somewhere on the A30 en route to Southampton while letting it out for a comfort break!''


Vintage cars

Joseph collected vintage cars. "He kept a Jowett Javelin [ed. not vintage then] outside the garden at Zimapan. He was very good with cars", Peter recalls. Joseph repaired his own cars and looked after Peter's Vauxhall 4. Joseph sometimes raced the car at more than 100 mph down the hill from Mount Ambrose with Peter as a passenger.  


Other recollections

During the Sincock's tenancy, Peter and Anne:

  • did their own cleaning and laundry 
  • did their shopping in Truro and Falmouth, while "the Dees tended to spread their custom more widely" 
  • never saw any decorating or structural work carried out on the house 
  • made trips to the beach at Porthowan and Portreath, and recall "a young lad called John3 who used to accompany them to the beach" 
  • had letters delivered to the house 
  • do not recall: 
    • Joseph mentioning that he was brought up as a Catholic, or that he had a twin brother 
    • any power cuts at the house 
    • the Dees taking any holidays 
    • the Dees going dancing 
    • seeing any of Mrs Dees fabulous evening dresses4 
    • the Dees going to church; "Zimapan was a long way from any place of worship, C of E, RC, Methodist, or anything else" 

Some additional recollections of Peter Sincock can be found in the biography of Joseph Pierre de L'Arbre de Malander.



1. See the photograph of Zimapan taken from the cycle path (east side) on the website's Home page. 

2. Mrs Dee's grand-nephew, John Dudart-Aberdeen. 

3. The 'John' Peter refers to was probably John-Dudart Aberdeen, Daisy May's grand-nephew. 

4. See 'Old Time Dancing' in the biography of Joseph de L'Arbre de Malander. This suggests that the couple took up dancing after the Sincocks left.