Obituaries

John Milton (38-41C)

John Milton, born in 1931, was the fifth generation of his family to spend their entire lives in West Anstey.  In 1945 the Milton’s returned to the family home of Partridge Arms Farm.  Up to the time of his death John was still actively involved in the management of the family farm with its ancient herd of Exmoor ponies which run wild over the open moorland. Growing up on the farm John developed his love for country life- he was a keen competitor in gymkhanas but his interests extended beyond farming; he played football and enjoyed music, playing the accordion in the Yeo Mill Rhythm Band.  As a young man he was the leader of his Young Farmers Club and then went on to hold higher office.  Ad so began a life-time of public service and charitable work. He served on the West Anstey Parish Council (over 50 years as Chairman) and was elected to the South Molton Rural District Council, and to the North Devon District Council when it was formed in 1974.  He was the last person to fulfil the dual role as Leader & Chairman of the District Council from 1990-1992.  Ironically, this appointment was made some 33 years after he had failed the entrance exam to continue his education at West Buckland School!  For his 25 years as a district councillor he was the NDDC representative on the Exmoor National Park Authority. and for much of this time was chairman of he planning committee.  He was Chairman of the council for two years from 1992.  John was a trustee of Bystock Court in Exmouth, a residential establishment for those with learning disabilities.  He was a founder member of South Molton Lions Club.  Many charitable events were hosted at the farm and, in particular, during nine consecutive years of holding variety evenings thousands of pounds were raised for Cancer and Leukaemia in Children, as the charity was then known.  John’s desire to avoid bureaucracy and get the job done was well illustrated by his dismantling and re-hanging the peel of bells from West Anstey Church, the bells being refurbished by John in his farm workshop.  John was a well respected member of the North Devon community and the high esteem in which he was held was reflected by the congregation of over six hundred that attended his funeral, the open-air service being held in the paddock at Partridge Arms Farm.  John is survived by Hazel his wife of fifty-one years, sons Robin and Rex, and six greatly loved grandchildren.

Sam Heath

Sam Heath, who died at the age of 87, was a well known figure both in the area and at the school for many years.  He greatly enjoyed watching school matches and he was always keen to see young people attempting and achieving in many activities.   His life makes an interesting story, for its early years included some very different and difficult experiences.  He was born in the workhouse in Totnes, but at the age of three he was chosen by a lady who lived near London to become a playmate for her daughter.  He lived there very happily for about seven years but, because a law had been passed that all orphans had to live in the county in which they were born, he was taken at night from this lady, “aunty” as he called her, brought back to Devon and placed in the workhouse in Barnstaple, a grim place in which to grow up.  It was probably because of this that he was so generous towards young people. At the age of 14 he was sent out to work on a farm on Exmoor for five shillings (=25p) a week.  He was badly treated there and after several beatings he was given one month’s notice to leave.  After working at several more farms he came to work for the Fortescue Estate, newly married and living with his father-in-law at Charles Bottom.  Now started his connection with the school. In those days all the boarders attended East Buckland Church every Sunday and for nearly forty years Sam taught those who were interested to ring the bells.  It was a popular evening out for the boarders to go to the weekly practice, an opportunity to get out and, for some, to enjoy an illicit cigarette.  Each year there was a ringers’ outing to different churches around the county. He also gave much practical help to the school, assisting with much of the work to roof the swimming pool, building the squash courts and improving the pavilion.  Once the pool was roofed and heated a Langholme swimming club was started, and every week Sam would be there joining in teaching the youngest to swim. Sam gave his time freely to do good to all people, helping with Scouts, running a village youth club, arranging games for parties and fund-raising events.  People knew they could rely on Sam, for he was a very straight-forward man who lived what he believed in.  It’s no surprise that there was not an empty seat in East Buckland Church at the funeral service.