Tribute: John Elliott
Dad, Grandad, John was born on 25th November 1932 at Dunton Green in Kent to Reginald and Lydia Elliott. He was the eldest of their 5 children. His younger brother Bill lives in Brackley. They grew up together and were nicknamed Tish and Tosh although we never remember which was which! Very sadly 2 sisters, Rosemary and Yvonne and 1 brother Freddy died as very young children.
The family lived in a number of parts of Kent, largely as a result of Dad’s father having to move for work but Dad ended up settling for an extended period of time in Rye, East Sussex. Dad had very fond memories of his childhood in Kent and Sussex and we were able to take him back there on a number of occasions to visit his old haunts and, on one occasion, surprise his old mate “Shuter” with a flying visit!
In a book of memories dad wrote “my favourite toys were cardboard cut out soldiers and books on soldiers, sailors and airmen. We had very few toys due to the war. Games we played were mainly in the woods, climbing trees and making camps with branches and bracken”.
During the Second World War, Dad was, on two occasions, evacuated to firstly Torquay and then St Dogmaels in Pembrokeshire to escape the fighting and continue his education. When he wasn’t away he recalled standing in the garden watching the planes fighting in the Battle of Britain, air raids and doodle bugs whizzing over on their way to London.
Growing up as a young boy during the war undoubtedly led to his lifelong interest in all things military, particularly planes. As an adult he built up quite a collection of books and plastic model kits and regularly attended air shows – he loved Spitfires and the sound of the Merlin engine.
As a young man whilst working for Igtham Brick and Tile Company he also spent time in Rugby but his father’s work eventually brought the family to Wendover in the mid-1950s. During his working life Dad also worked as a lathe turner for Negretti and Zambra, Broom and Wade, Harris Plating and as the caretaker at The Leonard Pulham Care Home in Halton from where he retired in 1997.Dad was a very keen sportsman and played both football and cricket to a high standard. He also tried boxing and trampolining whilst living in Rye as a member of Rye Boys Club. He supported Burnley football team, despite never having been any further north than Rugby, as he saw them play in an FA Cup Final at Wembley in 1947.
It was whilst playing cricket that he met the love of his life, Molly who was training to be a nurse in London. He regularly caught the train from Rugby to spend time with her as their romance blossomed. Molly then transferred to Stoke Mandeville Hospital when dad moved to Wendover. They married at Holy Trinity Church, Walton Street, Aylesbury on 2 August 1958 and held their reception at the Derby Arms in Church Square, Aylesbury. They set up home at 8 Carrington Crescent, Wendover and this is when dad’s association with the Allotment Society began…more of that later! They made some great friends who they always kept in touch with, particularly Gladys and George Turner, Peggy and Brian Burns, Kath and Jim Penman and Jen and Mick Champion.
Steven was born in April 1963 and David followed in August 1967. The growing family led to a move to a bigger house at 13 Chiltern Road, Wendover and Anne was then born in November 1969 to complete the family. Neighbours who became lifelong friends included Joy and Derek Randall and Peggy and Ron Mitchell.
We didn’t take holidays as a family but our time was spent together enjoying picnics on Coombe Hill, walking the dogs, playing football, cricket, making dens and flying kites, very much mirroring Dad’s own childhood. Dad would regularly have to climb a tree to rescue a stranded kite!
Dad was involved in the local community. He managed the local junior football team which David played for, volunteered at the Wendover Swimming Association and served as chairman of the Wendover Allotment Association. He was always willing to give his time to help out.
Dad had his allotment for 61 years and was still pushing his wheelbarrow up and down the village to tend to his crops only 2 weeks before he died. His allotment and the people he met there were his absolute passion. Whilst he was working he would spend most weekends there, usually with one or more of us children for company with “a bottle of pop and a bag of 1p sweets”. Once he retired the allotment became a daily “habit” telling mum he was “off to church” as he left the house with his trusty wheelbarrow to return later with it overflowing with more vegetables than we knew what to do with. Dad had a very special and long lasting friendship with Reg Woodward through their love of gardening, a disdain of modern methods of how to grow things and sport. They spent hours putting the world to rights particularly in each other’s shed when the weather took a turn for the worse. They also found time to help others and maintain the allotment grounds.
Steven, David and Anne all found love with Sue, Tracey and Jonathan respectively. They all have children of their own, Connor, Jaimie, Hannah, Katie, Alex and Laura. Dad became a wonderful grandad to them all. Both he and mum spent hours playing with them, taking them to the park and generally letting them do things that only grandparents can get away with! They will all miss him terribly but have loads of happy memories of the time they spent with him.
With their children gradually flying the nest, Mum and Dad made one final house move to 119 Aylesbury Road, Wendover and yet again added to their long lasting friendships particularly Victoria Just and Peggy Burch.
Sadly Mum died in 2005 and Dad found it to be an incredibly difficult time. But with the support and love of his family, friends, neighbours and the allotment he managed to enjoy life again. He had amazing trips to Poland and Australia to visit Steven whose work took him abroad and spoke endlessly about his travels to anyone who would listen when he got back. Even after major surgery in 2008 he remained incredibly fit and well and was usually sporting a tan.
Dad was always made welcome wherever he went, not least by Tracey’s family who he enjoyed spending time with and who always made sure there was a place laid for him at Sunday dinners and family celebrations.
Dad’s favourite time of the year was undoubtedly Christmas. It was a chance to shut away from the outside world for a week and spend quality time with the family playing with our new toys, doing jigsaw puzzles, choking on indoor fireworks and playing cards. There was always a real tree so tall we had to invariably trim the top off of it, decorations all over the house, crackers and so many sweets and chocolates we would still be eating them at Easter! Dad was always wearing a paper hat from a cracker, probably the same one for days and would enjoy a “snort” of his favourite whisky or rum. His cold meat and chips on Boxing Day were always something to look forward to.
Dad died on 25th November 2018, his 86th birthday. He was being looked after by the incredible and compassionate staff on Ward 8 at Stoke Mandeville Hospital who brought him a cake and sang “Happy Birthday” just hours before he died. He bore his pain incredibly bravely and was still making sure everyone else was OK whilst fully understanding how ill he was.
Dad was a humble and selfless man. He was straightforward and honest but seemed to lead a fulfilling life enjoying the simple things. He would always put others before himself. He loved nothing more than spending time with his family, meeting his friends for a chat or dropping the handles of his wheelbarrow to wave at anyone he knew. He was well known around the village of Wendover and we have been so pleasantly surprised by the heartfelt messages of support and memories we have received and which have been posted on social media.
Of course we will all miss Dad every day but we are grateful that he was such an amazing man who raised us to be like him. We can take comfort that he is reunited with his beloved Molly and he will no doubt be digging the big allotment in the sky.