Mary and John PowellJohn Powell, the long-serving chairman of Burbage parish council, has died at the age of 84 after a lengthy illness. He will long be remembered as 'Mr Burbage'…the man who put service to his village second only to his wife and family.
Mr Powell, 84, died peacefully on Thursday at his home in The Sprays, Burbage, where he had been nursed with the help of Prospect Hospice nurses for his last few days.
His dedication to his village with 46 years’ service on the parish council and running the village post office shop with his wife Mary for almost 35 years, was rewarded with a British Empire Medal in 1990 for 'services to the community'. His achievements included helping secure a bypass for the village in 1991.
The father of two was born at Savernake Hospital and lived briefly at West Grafton before his parents moved into Burbage where he spent the remainder of his life.
After leaving Burbage School at 14 he worked as a porter at the former West Grafton station, but when he was called up for National Service it was discovered he had a detached retina so he was not enlisted - ironically, he also lost his job with Great Western Railway because of his eyesight problem.
His local government service started when he joined the former Pewsey Rural District Council in its surveyors’ department where he was responsible for organising repairs to council houses.
Mr and Mrs Powell were married in 1957 and made their home in Burbage where they bought a plot of land off the High Street. They built their home and the post office shop when he was asked to become the village postmaster.
Mrs Powell recalled: “We lived in a caravan until the building was finished and we opened the new post office on the first of August 1959.” He later became chairman of the Swindon Federation of Sub Postmasters.
Their son Peter was born in 1964 - the same year his father first became a parish councillor. Their daughter Jane followed in 1967.
The couple were blessed with one granddaughter, Perdita: “Perdy was the light of her grandad’s life,” said Mrs Powell.
Mr Powell served two four-year terms on the former Kennet District Council, but his main love, said his wife, was the village he lived in: “He loved everything in Burbage and loved doing things for the village.”
His hobbies included gardening and holidays aboard the couple’s narrowboat called after his childhood nickname, Chick’s Own.
Mr Powell is survived by two of his three sisters, his daughter Jane and son-in-law Bob Dass, his son Peter and granddaughter Perdita.
Mr and Mrs Powell would have celebrated their diamond wedding on January 12.
The funeral takes place at All Saints’ parish church on Friday, January 4 at 2pm with a collection for the Burbage Surgery - c/o funeral director Dianne MacKinder, The Wagon Yard, London Road, Marlborough SB8 1LH.
Johnny O'Keeffe - merchant seamanMarlborough's former Town Cryer, Johnny O’Keeffe who spent much of his life on the high seas with the Merchant Navy, but always returned to the town where he was born, has died at the age of 93.
Mr O’Keeffe who died on November 19 donated his body for medical research and a gathering in his memory was held at Marlborough Conservative Club.
His father was an Irishman who married into the Dunford grocery family in Marlborough and Mr O’Keeffe’s grandparents ran Dunford’s grocery shop in the High Street with his mother. Later she continued the family business in The Parade where, during a break from his Merchant Navy service, Johnny O’Keeffe opened a grocery store.
He was born in The Parade and went to St Peter’s Boys School before joining Marlborough Golf Club as an assistant to the professional.
Amazingly for a man who was to spend so much time at sea, he became a scratch golfer and his love of the game remained until the end of his life. Daughter Angela Dodman said: “After his wife and family, golfing was one of his greatest passions.”
Aged 16 when World War Two started, he joined the Merchant Navy and served on Atlantic Conveys carrying food and supplies to Russia and to Allied countries.
In recent years he belatedly received the Legion d’Honneur from the French Government and the Ushakov medal from Russia. He had previously received the Atlantic Convoy Medal.
He took a break from his navy service and continued the family tradition opening his own grocery shop in The Parade. But the call of the sea became too much for him and he re-joined the Merchant Navy and served on the QE2 when she ferried troops to the Falklands in 1982.
His daughter said: “My father loved the sea and the navy, but he always looked forward to coming home to Marlborough.”
Mr O’Keeffe’s wife Tess died in 2010 after the couple had celebrated their diamond wedding at their home in York Place.
He was Marlborough's town cryer from 1988-93 when he handed over to Alfie Johnson, who has also recently retired.
He was a stalwart member of the Royal British Legion and always joined the Remembrance Day parade proudly wearing his medals.
In later years he continued his love for travel by touring the UK and Western Europe on trips with Barnes Coaches.
Sadly Mr and Mrs O’Keeffe lost their son Kevin in tragic circumstances and he is survived by his daughter Angela, seven grandchildren and by his older brother Michael, who emigrated to Canada after the second world war.
Johnny O'Keeffe was remembered and his service to the town marked when town councillors stood in silent respect during last week's full meeting of the Town Council (December 12).
Liz Neild, pic courtesy of Cricket Fine ArtFarewell, Liz Neild
Lockeridge locals will by now have heard on their grapevine that Liz Neild died on Thursday 24th November. The rest of the Parish may not be aware.
As well as being an artist of great repute, Liz contributed hugely to her local community and will be greatly missed: it was Liz who set up and ran the first Lockeridge Christmas drinks on the Dene, Liz who organised the Parish Time Capsule, Liz who helped at Landscape exhibitions, Heritage exhibitions, Jubilee celebrations – any village or Parish event, Liz was there, contributing good sense, fruit cake, mulled wine, and all with a smile and a laugh and “it's easy isn't it? It will all come right”. And it always did.
She served her time on the Parish Council – most memorably as Planning Chairman, where she was capable and conscientious, made herself knowledgeable about the mysteries of Local Authority Planning, and brought to bear her own expertise on architecture and landscape. She inspired (and wrote most of) our Village Design Statement back in the Millenium but which is still in use today. Later she did the same to enable production of its sister publication, the Landscape booklet, since her love and knowledge of the Downs was unmatched.
Any village event which she was not helping to run (not many), she would attend to show support. Only her wretched illness has recently kept her away – and we have all noticed, because she always WAS there.
Her fight against her cancer was fierce, as we expected, and her brave face continued to be shown in public almost to the end.
Farewell, Liz – may you rest in peace now ( but actually you're probably organising some event up there, clutching your delicious fruit cake). I for one will be raising my glass to you come Christmas on the Dene…
Paul SmythFormer Epsom racehorse trainer Paul Smyth has died at his Gales Ground, Marlborough, home where he lived with his wife June and brother-in-law Ernie Newell. He was 79.
A thanksgiving service for his life will be held on Friday, July 22 in St Mary's Church at 12 noon following an earlier private cremation.
Mr Smyth was born into one of Epsom’s most famous families. His father, Victor Smyth, was one of the five sons of an Epsom builder. In the 1920s he was a famous jockey and later as a trainer he won four Champion Hurdles.
Paul Smyth’s maternal grandfather, Harry Escott, was also a leading jockey who became an outstanding trainer of jumpers at Lewes in Sussex. His successes included no fewer than four Grand National winners.
Mr Smyth was also related to the Jennings and the Heads, the famous Anglo-French racing family.
With this background it was hardly surprising that horse racing became Mr Smyth’s consuming interest and his life revolved around the sport as a trainer, racehorse owner and bookmaker.
Paul Smyth was born in Epsom in 1936 and educated at Downsend Preparatory School in Leatherhead and then at Haileybury, where his contemporaries included the playwright Alan Ayckbourne.
After Haileybury Mr Smyth was commissioned into the Cameronians and served most of his National Service in Germany.
On leaving the Army he became assistant trainer to his father for some years and on his father’s retirement took out a trainer’s licence of his own. His first winner was ridden by Lester Piggott.
The recession of 1975 hit him hard leaving him with a depleted yard, so he wound up his business and joined bookmakers Coral, managing betting shops in London and the Home Counties before coming to Wiltshire in 1979.
He then ran several Coral shops in Wiltshire including those in Melksham and Calne before his retirement.
Mr Smyth was twice married. His first marriage producing two daughters was dissolved and in 2000 he married June Newell, who was born and brought up in Marlborough. They initially lived in Silverless Street and latterly in Gales Ground.
They had met through horse racing in 1986 and the sport played an important part in their lives. In recent years the horses they had in training with Stan Moore in Lambourn gave them untold pleasure and some success.
Besides his widow and two daughters, Mr Smyth also leaves three grandchildren and an elder sister, Ann, who lives in Houston, Texas.
Donations in his memory for the Injured Jockeys Fund and Prospect Hospice can be made via funeral director Dianne Mackinder, The Wagon Yard, London Road, Marlborough.