Tribute: Mike Spain

This portrait was lovingly painted by well known local artist and stalwart of Wendover Art Club, Graham Jefford, who kindly allowed its reproduction. The original painting belongs to Mike’s family.

Mike was a Man of Kent (as distinct from a Kentish man, as he would point out – look it up!) and as a child watched cricket at the St Lawrence ground in Canterbury. For whatever reason, his father and grandfather sat at opposite ends of the ground so he would spend the matches shuttling between the two of them, cadging pennies for sweets. Although he was raised an Anglican and attended a Methodist school, apparently he felt an affinity with Catholics; the reason being he was perennially late for school and so on arrival was sent to wait with the Catholic boys who didn’t attend morning assembly. He grew up in a time before central heating, which seems to have accounted for his seeming imperviousness to cold; his children remember him outside the back door on a Monday morning in sub-zero temperatures in his vest, polishing shoes for the week ahead.

As a young man, he was a skilled hockey player and once, in a match against Leeds University in which – in his words – he made an England winger look silly, he was approached by the Yorkshire selectors whose interest was predictably short-lived when he identified himself as a southerner.

Mike was a worker – possibly a workaholic, though he didn’t have a formal diagnosis – and held down a great variety of jobs in his time. These included, picking hops with his mum, laying paving slabs in Canterbury – his initials may still lurk beneath the feet of shoppers – sorting mailbags – Herne Bay . . . hooray! – canning peas, completing his national service – supposedly he was treated for malnutrition, having lived on chip butties for some time as the army food was practically inedible – loading Wall’s ice-cream onto lorries, guarding premises on the moors above Manchester as a night watchman, selling adding machines in Liverpool – he once had to buy a hat when these had long gone out of fashion (a trilby?) much to his wife’s amusement in a bid to try and seal a deal with a client – general manager of a textiles factory in Limerick, financial controller with different manufacturers. He was distinctly underwhelmed at the unveiling of the car which was billed as the saviour of British Leyland, the Morris Marina or possibly the Austin Allegro (no comment) and, latterly, deputy under treasurer of the Middle Temple in London.

Mike was very proud to have been married to an Irishwoman, Collette, and the Glens of Antrim and its people remained close to his heart. A few years after he was widowed, he was encouraged to attend an SVP (Society of St Vincent de Paul) talk about bereavement by a lady who had also been widowed, in the same year, it turned out. Hence he met Marguerite and they were happily married for 20 good years. They continued to work for SVP and at one time were the mainstay of Bega kwa Bega, Ugandan Orphans, a charity with which Marguerite was already very involved. Mike’s great prowess in the kitchen was a great asset as he organised a supper every year which raised money towards various projects including schools, a model farm, water and sanitation. A protected spring will be named in his honour. His business acumen came to the fore when Mike and Marguerite were able to visit BkB and meet local manager David. The charity was founded by Ugandans and is run by Ugandans. BkB only provides pump priming finance as each project must be self sustaining thereafter.

Another great institution which Mike threw himself into was Wendover Twinning Association, participating with enthusiasm in all their events and exchanges right up until 2015, after which date his health sadly stopped him from travelling abroad. His contribution to the Association over the years was invaluable. He joined the committee, first as an ‘ordinary’ member and later as Treasurer and then Chairman and he will be greatly missed by both English and French members.

Mike’s final heroic achievement was to enable St Anne’s Hall to flourish again despite there being no funds from within the Diocese available at the time. He partnered up with Tony Mogford, Dr Colin Riley and others to ensure that Wendover could continue to benefit from a well appointed and well run Hall at affordable rates so that people could meet for regular and occasional activities in pleasant surroundings. People of all ages, from tiny to very senior, have celebrated birthdays and other joyous anniversaries there. Theatre in the Villages used it as a location. Many classes rely on it, especially as the natural light is excellent as well as the internal lighting.

Mike is survived by his wife Marguerite, and his sons Patrick, Michael and David.