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John Riches our Village Correspondent writes weekly reports about the village for the local media.  We are pleased to place them on our web site in order that those interested in Abthorpe can access the latest village news from anywhere in the world.

This page will keep the latest 3 or 4 reports.

On the Archive page we will store past articles and other pieces of particular interest.

Also, our newsletters can be downloaded on the Newsletters page.


18th March
The life and times of Ian Willsher 1947 - 2017

Many in the village will have fond memories of Ian, his humour and resilience. He died recently. His wife, June, has sent us this remembrance of him.

Ian’s parents were married very young just before the Second World War broke out . Ian’s father was posted to Africa for the duration of the war but on his return home he and Ian’s mother set up home together again, and Ian was born on 13th June 1947.

History has taught us that many soldiers came home from war and found difficulty in settling down to normal life and Harry Willsher was no exception to this. Ian was only two years old when his mother left home leaving Ian to be brought up by his “rather strict father”. Without the softer presence of his mother Ian became a rather naughty little boy and the final straw came for his father when Ian was 5 years old and he set the school piano alight by poking lighted matches through the green material backing of the piano until it finally went up in flames.

So, Ian was sent off to a high church boarding school in Reigate, Surrey, where he stayed for the rest of his school life. Although Ian did well at school academically, the rebellious side to his nature frequently got him into trouble and he was the recipient of regular punishments with the cane (‘6 of the best’). But to his schoolmates Ian was a hero because of his resilience and determination to speak up for himself and any other chum, if he felt that he or they were being mistreated in any way.

After leaving school Ian joined the Royal Marines and worked his way up to Colour Sergeant, undertaking jungle warfare in Borneo and serving in the desert of Aden where he was shot in the leg and was flown home to UK for surgery. The situations he witnessed, the memories of friends he made and lost remained with him until the end. He also carried out duties guarding our Royal Family both here at home and abroad. His lips were always tightly closed apart from some funny innocent stories.

Fast forward to 1985. Ian had left the Marines, and, now divorced, moved to Northamptonshire to start afresh. June, similarly divorced, but the two having not yet met, moved in the same year to the same place and so their paths crossed. “Our children went to the same school, maybe we brushed shoulders on parents’ evenings or at the school gates. But it was at a housewarming party of a mutual acquaintance that things became serious. Midway through the evening Ian came over and asked me to dance. The music was Lady in Red: there was something special going on, and we both felt it! From that point on we became soul mates – and remained so right to the end of Ian’s life.

“We married a year later in September 1986 and settled down to family life. Jez, my son was just 10 years old and in much need of a father figure. Ian was very good at filling that role and Jez looked up to him. My girls were older and Andrew, Ian’s son, spent weekends with us. It worked out well.

In 1996 tragedy struck when we lost my daughter Ellie to leukaemia. Ian propped the family up during those months: he was kind, caring and carried the responsibility of the family on his shoulders while spending hours reading to and caring for Ellie. “We moved to Abthorpe in 1998 when I became housekeeper to Angela and David Darling in Leeson House. Unfortunately the household duties became too much for me following an operation in 2000. We were very happy to be able to stay living in Abthorpe as 1 Cadogan Place was empty.

I got very involved with village life through The Abthorpe Fund Group, which I enjoyed. And Ian helped whenever he could. “Ian loved living in Abthorpe – we both did. Many happy memories were made there, many friends and acquaintances never forgotten. We would happily have spent the rest of our lives here but three years ago with Ian deteriorating fast and in desperate need of help to look after him we moved to Wales to be with Jez and his family. The close bond between Ian and Jez came to the fore again, only this time the tables were turned and it was Jez who had the broad shoulders for Ian and me.

Ian died very peacefully with Jez and me by his side. Ian was a kind, caring generous and loving man and a good husband, but that strong rebellious streak was still there, right to the very end. Bless him.”

11th March
Old School AGM.
At the Annual General Meeting of our village hall committee it was announced that four grants had been received totalling £28,754. The grants were made by South Northamptonshire Council - £8,162; The Big Lottery Fund - £17,592; The Constance Travis Charitable Trust - £2,000 and Abthorpe Parish Council – £1,000.

The Election of Churchwardens will take place on Tuesday 20th March at 7:00pm in Abthorpe Old School. Any person resident in Abthorpe Parish whose names are entered on the register of local government electors plus persons whose names are entered on our church’s electoral roll are entitled to vote.

Book Sale.
The Old School Committee is organising a book sale on Saturday 28th April from 10:30am to 4:30pm. Refreshments will be available all day.  If you have any books to donate please e-mail oldschool@abthorpe.net


4th March
The Beast from the East
 is coming said the weather forecasters, with extremely low temperatures and lots of snow.

Well – I simply love snow, so I was looking forward to its arrival. My wife interrupted my thoughts. It also says that old people should stay warm indoors and that neighbours should keep an eye on them. Hospitals don’t want their A & E Departments clogged-up with old blokes like you who’ve fallen over on the ice.

On Wednesday the temperatures dropped so before the snows arrived we drove down to nearby Towcester to stock up with food. Enough for a fortnight!! That night the temperature continued to fall and dropped to -8C and a howling, strong bitterly cold north easterly wind blew the fine snow that had started to fall into drifts. The roads became covered but the gritter-lorry drivers did a great job of keeping our through route open.

On Thursday morning we woke early. Our milkman who is based in Milton Keynes was unable to deliver . Likewise our daily newspaper failed to arrive from our newsagent’s depot in Banbury. You’ll just have to amuse yourself indoors – and don’t get grumpy retorted my wife.  I phoned a childhood friend who now lives in Canada and explained that we had temperatures of -8C. That was warm by Canadian standards. They often have -8 Fahrenheit. 40 degrees of frost! Despite that extreme cold everything keeps going. They even have a local contractor who uses a snow blower to clear the drifts from their drive.

There was a knock at our door. Some neighbours had arrived complete with snow shovels ready to clear our drive. What a wonderful gesture.

We hunkered down and found lots of things to do. There seemed to be little traffic on our road as people heeded warnings to stay indoors. Our pub had a very quite time as people were simply unable to get there to enjoy a meal.

After two days of intense cold and blasting freezing wind the temperature crept up and we managed to get out and drive to Towcester.  Our hunkering-down indoors had lasted two whole days. It felt like two whole months. Roll on summer.

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