There are “literary” pubs (pubs which highlight an author) all over the British Isles, a handful in Kent , England alone: one can even book tours/crawls and visit several. One such pub is the Ship Inn/Hotel in Dymchurch, Kent (118 High St.) Those of us of a certain age will remember the dashing Patrick McGoohan as the Vicar of Dymchurch (Dr. Syn, Alias the Scarecrow—aka The Scarecrow of Romney Marsh) in a three-part series on Disney’s Wonderful World of Color in 1964 (it was actually released in Britain the previous year). McGoohan’s Dr. Syn is based on the titular character of the books made famous by Russell Thorndike (the first –Dr. Syn— was written in 1915). The Disney version of Thorndike’s literary hero is one of a handful of filmed versions featuring the good Doctor: George Arliss played Dr. Syn in 1937; Peter Cushing was Captain Clegg (another alter ego in Syn’s previous life) in 1962.
Kent resident Thorndike used to visit The Ship Inn frequently and it has been said that this is where he might have come up with the idea for the Reverend Dr. Christopher Syn—a beloved Vicar by day, the infamous Scarecrow—leader of a band of smugglers (the “Marsh Men”) on horseback– by night. It was a natural: The 16th-century Ship Inn really was a smugglers’ meeting place in its time. The Inn also has a Dr. Syn collection on display (believed to be one of the biggest), and sells Syn posters and postcards designed by artist Terry Anthony, and other memorabilia as well (http://www.drsyn.net/). St. Peter and St. Paul Church is just across the road from The Ship Inn (the “Dymchurch” of the novels, but in the Disney series, Dymchurch was “played” by St. Clements church, in Old Romney.) At St. Peter and St. Paul Church, one can find a brass plaque at the church commemorating Russell Thorndike. Thorndike even borrowed some of the names from the tombstones in the churchyard: they appear as names in the Dr. Syn books. Thorndike himself is buried there. Dymchurch even has a “Day of Syn,” a biennial event usually taking place in August (August Bank Holiday weekend—the next will be 2012), complete with book reenactments and story characters –including the infamous Scarecrow–come to life. Indeed, the first Syn novel was so popular, six more were written afterwards—prequels, because the Syn character is killed off in the first book!
So if you happen to be traveling on the Southern Coast of England and you are either a Russell Thorndike or a Dr. Syn Alias The Scarecrow /Dr. Syn film fan, make The Ship Inn a stop and knock back a pint!