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Obituaries

Obituary: John Powell - former Burbage postmaster and stalwart supporter of the village - has died aged 84

Mary and John PowellMary 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.

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Obituary: Johnny O'Keeffe war veteran & former town cryer has died aged 93

Johnny O'Keeffe - merchant seamanJohnny 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).

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Liz Neild, Artist and key member of the Lockeridge community

Liz Neild, pic courtesy of Cricket Fine ArtLiz 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…

Mary Spender

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OBITUARY: Paul Smyth's life centred round horse racing - as trainer, owner and bookmaker

Paul SmythPaul 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.

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Horse drawn hearse for funeral of much loved and respected Tedworth huntsman Ted Burton

(Photograph is the copyright of Sarah-Jane Bullock)(Photograph is the copyright of Sarah-Jane Bullock)Traffic in Pewsey was brought to a halt on Friday (April 29) by a Victorian hearse drawn by two magnificent Friesian horses with flowing manes and red plumes on their bridles.  It carried the coffin of Ted Burton, huntsman of the Tedworth Hunt for over 30 years.

His coffin was carried into the church by serving huntsmen and two foot supporters.

Ted Burton died at the age of 85 after a relatively short battle with cancer, with his wife Dot beside him.  His family was with him throughout his illness, and friends were always dropping in to reminisce.  

Almost to the end they were greeted by his wonderful, slightly wicked smile and twinkling blue eyes.  Asked in those last weeks whether there was anything he would like to change about his life, he replied: “Absolutely nothing...I’d do it all again”.

The church was packed to overflowing to hear what was a celebration of a true countryman’s life. Ted, as he was universally known, was born in Worcestershire, to a farm labourer who worked the land with horses.  

He left school at 14, and worked on the farm himself before becoming a groom and then becoming kennel Huntsmen at the local hunt.  In l970 he moved to the Tedworth, where he and his wife, Dot, lived for many years in the house behind the kennels.   

Ted Burton and friendTed Burton and friendOnly six months before he died he was riding at the opening meet of the Tedworth at Oare House, surrounded by the next generations of his family, all of whom are equally dedicated to horses.

His son Gerald trains point to pointers, and his three sonS, in turn, all became jockeys. One, had a terrible accident at Exeter racecourse which means he is now confined to a wheelchair.  Ted was so proud of the way he has made an active for himself, and his accident didn’t put of his 10 year old half sister Molly, taking up the sport.

His oldest friend Bill Cook gave the eulogy, recalling how they used to ride in team chases where one of them regularly ended up on the ground. He said Ted was a 'great legman'  who carried around with him 'a magic potion' which could be used to treat all the myriad lumps and bumps to which horses are prone.

He described his distinctly unromantic proposal to Dot.  Her family were having to move out of their cottage because her father had died, so Ted said 'they might as well get married'.  It was wonderful marriage which lasted 60 years.  She was as much part of the hunt as he was.

They were both bitterly upset by the hunting ban ten years ago. Ted, who had never been to London before, went to the Countryside Alliances march where he seemed to know everybody.  For him hunting was never the same after the ban, but after a pause he continued to ride to hounds.  

Despite his assurances to Dot in later years that he wouldn’t take risks, he continued jumping.   Ironically it wasn’t hunting on a horse which killed him.  He fell from his quad bike last year following the beagles, and when he didn’t recover as fast as he hoped, doctors found he had cancer.

His coffin was carried out of the church to a recording of the Countryside Alliance’s anthem, 'We are the defenders of the countryside', as a friend blew 'Gone away' on a hunting horn.

With our thanks to Sarah-Jane Bullock for use of her photograph - you can reach her website here.

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The very Independent Wiltshire Councillor Jeff Osborn - an appreciation

Jeff Osborn (Photo courtesy The Western Daily Press)Jeff Osborn (Photo courtesy The Western Daily Press)With the sudden and shocking death of Wiltshire Councillor Jeff Osborn, the Health Service in our county has lost a constant champion. Jeff died in the Royal United Hospital in Bath on April 1, a few days after suffering a severe stroke. He was 73.  

Jeff was a long serving member of the Council's Health Scrutiny committee, where he was a vigilant critic of the new world of fragmented and commissioned health services, while at the same time speaking up for those who are trying to make and keep the NHS free and fairly available to all those who need it.

Jeff also saw very clearly what is happening to the NHS as a result of the Coalition Government's Health and Social Care Act, one of the reasons why he (and I) couldn't continue in the Liberal Democrats.

Jeff cared deeply about the NHS, but that was one among many of the battles that he fought. He was twenty years a Councillor in Wiltshire, first elected as a West Wilts District Councillor in 1996 and then to the old County Council and as a Wiltshire Councillor in 2009.

His political journey included membership of the Labour Party, then the Lib Dems, and then becoming an Independent. He always insisted his values hadn't changed, others had. He stood up for his people in his Trowbridge ward, and was so well respected there that he was re-elected in 2013 (now as an Independent) with a huge 700 majority, and an extraordinary 86 per cent of the vote.

He served twice as the Town's Mayor. Most recently he supported Trowbridge residents in their fight against excessive development (though he was a strong supporter of building more affordable homes), and campaigned against government plans to impose fracking on the Trowbridge area. He also cared about the town's wartime heritage and was a leading light in the campaign for a memorial to the Trowbridge factories' construction of Spitfires in the Second World War.

I first got to know Jeff when Chippenham Hospital was threatened with closure.  He supported the successful local efforts to keep it open by arguing the case on the then County Council scrutiny committee.

Later we became colleagues in the unitary Wiltshire Council, first as Liberal Democrats and then as Independents. We shared many values, including a belief in the positive contribution of local government and the public sector, which seems all too often to be under threat these days.

One of Jeff's most recent and high profile campaigns was to keep the Hopper bus service to the RUH in Bath. He saw cutting it as a glaring example of how the needs of a vulnerable few were seen as dispensable in the name of the austerity programme to which he strongly objected. It is a sad irony that the last email I had from him was about his visits to the RUH, proudly travelling on the Hopper.

It is extraordinarily sad that his wife Helen, also a Wiltshire Councillor, was in hospital after a serious operation at the time of his death. They were an inseparable pair, and our thoughts are with Helen at such a difficult time.

In public, Jeff came across as bluff and genial, usually seen of late in his signature greatcoat.  He was a very effective public speaker, with his own very individual style. One of his great strengths was his deep understanding of the system, and an uncanny ability to get it to work for the causes he cared about.

He was well respected across the political divides.  He was rather a private person, and others will have known him better than I did, but he was also a genial and, when necessary, a critical friend, always supportive when needed. When I challenged the established view that all was well with Wiltshire Council's care in the community, Jeff was always there to back me up.

Personally I will miss him terribly. I know many others will too - deeply and genuinely, over and beyond the many public expressions of condolence. He is a huge loss also to progressive politics in Wiltshire. It is a sometimes an overused expression, but I believe it in this case to be true:  I don't think we will see his like again.

Councillor Chris Caswill represents the Monkton Division of Chippenham on Wiltshire Council.

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Grace Denman has died aged 103 - keeping the secrets of her wartime work

 

Grace Denman in 2012Grace Denman in 2012Grace Denman's funeral will be at 2.00pm on Wednesday, 24 February at St Mary's Church, Marlborough.

Mrs Grace Denman of Riverside, Marlborough died on Wednesday (February 10.)  She was aged 103.

She and her husband Teddy moved to Marlborough in 1985 and she became an active part of the community - especially as a member of the congregation of St Mary's Church.

She was born in the Essex village of Tiptree in 1912: Grace Mary Rosina Southgate. In those days Tiptree had no piped water, no electricity, not gas supply and no main drainage.  It was famous for its strawberry jam and school holidays had to fit with the harvest so children could go with their mothers to the strawberry fields.

1926: Grace aged 14 with her brother Bob aged 71926: Grace aged 14 with her brother Bob aged 7At six she started at the village school and then went to the High School in Chelmsford - a ten miles each way trip on the 'light railway'. Her fees were paid by 'an education grant'.  

Her father died in 1923 - quite probably the delayed result of the 'trench nephritis' (or Bright's disease) he had suffered during the First World War.

We know a great deal about Grace Denman's early life from the pages of a small book published in 2012 - to mark her hundredth birthday. 

Clare Napier interviewed her and the result is a wonderful glimpse of the life of a rural family overcoming the odds stacked against them.  Her recall of the details of those times is amazing.

She was good at French - and hated gym.  When she left school an aunt suggested she might like to become a telephone operator.  It must have slightly surprised her when she was accepted by the Post Office in London - she had never even spoken on the telephone.

There was a delay before she could start the job in London, and she worked as a poof-reader at a printing company in the village.

The 'Post Office' was, of course, the GPO (General Post Office) which handled all the country telecommunications.  At privatisation the telecommunications side of the GPO went to BT - who continued paying her pension.

With her impeccable French she worked on the switchboards of the Continental Telephone Service for eight shillings a week.  And she learnt German.

When the Germans overran France communications were cut and her job ended.   In 1940 she went to work on the switchboard at the headquarters of the Belgian authorities who had sought refuge in Britain.  Then she moved on to work at the offices of the Free French.

Later, as she told Clare Napier, "...I worked with the War Office.   I still can't talk about the work, but it was very interesting. In 1945 the war ended and I returned to the Post Office."

It is safe to say that her war work was important as when the post-war conferences began, she was recalled and worked for two years in Paris - ending with the United Nations conference of 1948.  It is unlikely she was 'merely' an interpreter.

Grace Southgate retired in 1972 - and married her boss, Teddy Denman, who was a widower and fourteen years older than her.  They had seventeen very happy years together before he died in 1990.

They had been persuaded to move to Marlborough by Teddy's younger son Eric, who was an orthopaedic consultant in Swindon.  

In Marlborough Grace Denman ran the Mothers Union, prayer groups and, for a time, the Luncheon Club.  And she put on coffee mornings to raise funds for the Marlborough Brandt Group, St Mary's Church and, when it was just starting, for the Prospect Hospice.

She was a long-serving proof-reader for Tower and Town.  As she put it, she had been doing that work 'for donkey's years' - and was still doing it in 2012.

In January 2013 she took part in Marlborough's traditional Wassail Ceremony - offering the first piece of toast to the robins at one of the trees planted by the Marlborough Community Orchard team.

Grace Denman's interviews with Clare Napier in 2011 and 2012 end thus: "I don't think 'poor me', everyone has gone, nobody remembers me....I feel I am so fortunate to live here in Marlborough where people are so friendly."

This article is based largely on Clare Napier's interviews and her 24-page booklet: "Born 1912".

 

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Obituary: Bob Wise - widely respected and long-serving local journalist and horseracing expert

Bob WiseBob WiseOne of the country’s longest serving local journalists, Marlborough father of three Bob Wise has died at the age of 92 after an amazing career of over 70 years broken only by his war service.

Mr Wise, who was married to his wife Elsie for 57 years was editor of the former Marlborough Times, worked as sub editor on the Swindon Advertiser and as a racing correspondent and tipster for the Wiltshire Gazette.

His wife was at his bedside when he died at the Miranda nursing home in Royal Wootton Bassett in the early hours of Saturday morning.

Home for most of his married life was at Upper Churchfields in Marlborough where he and his wife celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary seven years ago.

He is survived by his wife, three children, Rosalind, Roger and Robin, and by two grandchildren, Cecilia and Samuel.

There will be a burial service for family and close friends only on Tuesday (August 11) at Marlborough Cemetery in Frees Avenue followed at 2.30pm by a service of thanksgiving for his life, in St Mary’s Church.

Mr Wise was brought up at West Overton, not far from the famous racing stables at Beckhampton and Manton that were to be a major feature in his life.

His family believes his love of racing probably started when a favourite uncle used to let him race snails on their doorstep!

He left Marlborough Grammar School at 16 to be apprenticed as a reporter on the former Marlborough Times and he was midway through his training when he joined the Home Guard before being called up into the Royal Air Force.

He worked in the RAF wireless communications section and his service took him to the Far East where by an amazing coincidence he bumped into his only brother, the late Alan Wise who died five years ago, who was also in the armed forces.

When peace returned in Europe, Mr Wise returned to reporting on the local paper meanwhile building up his contacts in the world of racing that enabled him in later life to become a widely respected racing correspondent and tipster.

He moved to the Swindon Advertiser and enjoyed the cut and thrust of daily journalism for some years before returning to the Marlborough Times as its editor, a position he held for many years.

Bob, as he was generally known, was interested in all aspects of sport and played soccer for his village side as a youngster and it was while playing tennis on the old grammar school courts in Elcot Lane that he met Elsie. In later life he became one of the leading snooker players at Marlborough Conservative Club.

Mrs Wise said: “Bob loved all sports but racing was the thing he liked most.”

He wrote a weekly column for the Handicap Book for more than 30 years and after retiring continued writing a weekly racing column for the Wiltshire Gazette well into his eighties.

As a Gazette journalist, Nigel Kerton worked alongside Mr Wise in Marlborough for almost 50 years.  He told Marlborough News Online: “Bob was the old fashioned journalist who had a network of contacts in every village, always researched his stories thoroughly and was well respected by all who knew him."

“As an editor he encouraged numerous young journalists into their careers and although I worked on a rival paper he gave me a lot of help in my early days and we became lasting friends.”

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  • Town-Hall-2011-05-03 08-2
  • Mop-Fair---10-10-09------08
  • Civic Selfie1
  • ARK Manton -2012-01-14 49-
  • D4S9273
  • Camilla-2012-10-19 152
  • MYFC 005
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  • Christmas-Lights 15-11-20 097
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  • Torch-2012-05-23 093-
  • Hares 017cropped
  • Bluebells-in-West-Woods-10-05-09------30
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