40 years of service to the community and the FRA

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Ed Tims, who served the FRA for many years as Chairman and Secretary, has sadly died. He was aged 94.

He first joined the FRA in 1967 to promote better road safety for schoolchildren. He joined the committee as Secretary in 1968.

He was a leading light in the successful campaign to prevent the route of the M25 passing through what was known as the ‘Fetcham Gap’. He became Chairman in 1995 and stepped down in 2008 after 40 years’ service. 

In addition to the FRA, Ed was also an active member of the Leatherhead and District Local History Society. You can find his recollections of past times in the area by looking up his name in the ‘Oral Histories’ section of the Society’s website.

Ed was proud to be able to trace his ancestors back to the time when they were harness makers in Leatherhead in the 1740s.

Ed grew up in Bookham and Horsley, before moving to Mole Road in Fetcham with his wife Moira in 1955. Working at the Milk Marketing Board in Thames Ditton, he became a specialist in cattle breeding.

He organized the export of products such as frozen bull’s semen, and his daughter Jenny recalls how he once received the gift of a box of mangoes from a cattle-rearing Maharajah in India.

Some residents may remember Moira working in Meyrick’s sweet shop, now “Contact” and in Elizabeth’s haberdashery shop in the Street, next to what is now Flowercraft. They were together for 67 years before she died in 2019.

Ed continued living at home in Mole Road until he was admitted to St Helier Hospital, where he died last month.

Update - April 18th 2022

At Ed's funeral at St Mary's Church, his daughter Jenny Ashby, gave the following eulogy. We are grateful to her for giving us permission to reproduce it.

Edred, Ed, Ted, Alric, Pa, Dad, Daddy, Grandpa, Great Grandpa. A man of many names, but the name by which his parents intended him to be known was Edred. Edred: an unusual name for a unique man. It’s actually an Old English, or Saxon, name meaning “prosperous or wise advice” – it became a self-fulfilling prophecy.

In all his long life, Edred seems to have been liked and respected by pretty much everybody he met. All his family adore him - he was a wonderful (in fact, exceptional) son, husband, father, grandfather and great grandfather. His niece, Rowena, said of him: “A finer man you will never find…he never judged anyone nor said anything bad about anyone. Too bad there aren’t more like him”.

At the 2008 AGM of the Fetcham Residents’ Association, which was his last before he retired from that organisation after 40 years’ service, he was presented with a plaque - and in the presentation speech by Kit Oliver, ex Chair of Mole Valley Council, she talked of the high regard in which he was held by villagers, fellow committee members and District and County Councils alike. She said he was devoted to building the community of Fetcham, making it a good, safe place to live and he ably led the FRA during a period of huge developments in Fetcham. She talked of the hallmarks of his leadership - his quiet unflappability, his modesty, his vast knowledge of both the history of the area and its countryside, his willingness to devote long hours to gathering research and presenting firm but well-balanced cases and letters to the Council. His name was always treated with respect, which reflected back on both the village and its Residents’ Association. He was, she said, unassuming, kind, meticulous, hard-working and a true team player.

So that is the man he became, but where did it all begin?

Well, the answer is Great Bookham. He was born on 21st July, 1927 in a little house on the Guildford Road. His father, Basil, was a Civil Servant in the India Office and his mother, Maggie, had worked as a stenographer (that’s a typist to the rest of us) in the Imperial Tobacco Office before she became a full-time mum. He had an elder sister, Margery. When Edred was 4 the family moved to Manor Close, East Horsley, where he spent an idyllic childhood. His parents were both keen country folk, taking their family on regular walks on the North Downs, and that must be where he got his deep and abiding passion for the countryside and local history from.  

He attended the local village school, then Parkside, then Tiffins in Kingston (which he hated), but the happiest days of his school life were spent at the Royal Grammar School in Guildford, a place and time he remembered with great fondness all his life.

He had many friends, including Mike Gardiner, who, as a £10 Pom emigrated to Australia in the 1960s and is still there and still in touch. He remembers the two of them being part of a close band of village friends who did daft things like riding a rickety motorbike round the Sheepleas (woods near Horsley), starting it with lighter fuel then running it on paraffin! Mike says one of their mothers eventually sabotaged the bike to save their lives!

He was at the Grammar School when World War 2 was raging. Ed and his contemporaries made friends with the Canadian soldiers camping in the local woods, collected debris from incendiary bombs, cheerfully endured food rationing and other privations and joined the Home Guard when they could.

As soon as they were of age, he and his classmates volunteered for the forces – this was a smart move, apparently, because if you volunteered you got to choose which service and which regiment you joined! Ed initially joined the Indian Army, but later, as India became independent, transferred to the Queen’s Royal Regiment and became a sergeant. His trademark moustache dates to this period – kickback from a rifle during training shattered one of his front teeth (I remember his gold tooth) and scarred his upper lip. His always carefully-clipped moustache hid the scars. His final posting was with the Army Education Corps, teaching fellow soldiers maths and physics ready for civilian life.

Before joining the army, Edred had dreamed of becoming a geologist, but no university offered it as a separate subject at that time, so he applied to do agriculture as a second choice and gained a place at Bangor University after his National Service came to an end.

He had to wait a year until a place became available and he spent it working on Jury Farm in Horsley – and spending a lot of time with a pretty young lady (his words) called Moira West, who lived just a few doors away. They used to go on long bike rides – they cycled to the New Forest from Horsley and back one day – and Edred regularly got into trouble with Moira’s father for keeping her out late! They soon got engaged and Moira wrote to him nearly every day when he was away at Bangor and they spoke on the telephone at a pre-arranged time once a week.

Edred/Ed enjoyed his time at Bangor. He loved to walk and climb in the mountains of Snowdonia and also joined the university hockey, cricket, rowing and classical music clubs, served on the students’ representative council, contributed articles for the college newspaper and was on the Rag committee. In 1952 he obtained his degree in agriculture and within a very short time he and Moira were married. Their married life had an inauspicious start because neither set of inlaws could stand the other and they didn’t speak at all during the wedding or reception! In fact, for years afterwards, Ed and Moira had to eat 2 Christmas dinners every Christmas Day so neither set of parents felt offended!

Married life began with Ed working on farms in Berkshire then Somerset until, in 1954, he secured a job as a clerk at the Milk Marketing Board at Thames Ditton. Moira, who was good at maths, got a job at the same place as a comptometer operator (a forerunner of the computer).

Their combined earnings enabled them to obtain a mortgage to buy a home in Mole Road, Fetcham. They first saw it as a concrete platform and visited the plot every weekend, standing in the foundations and watching their house being built. They moved in in 1955 and lived there for the rest of their lives.

At work, Ed was selected to join the Milk Board’s newly formed Artificial Insemination of Cattle Service, which became British Semen Exports, and eventually rose to become export manager. Artificial Insemination was used to improve cattle herds in this country and, from the 1960s, overseas as well, including 3rd World countries. Ed carved a unique place in the history of cattle breeding: he personally arranged or supervised the export of several million doses of cattle semen from 30 breeds of UK based cattle to 32 countries of the World, helping to create productive and resilient herds of cattle.

Meanwhile, Ed and Moira had started a family which grew to 3 daughters – Karen, Wendy and me. Ed was a lovely Dad, always there to help and advise and encourage us. He once said his daughters were always in the right – which perhaps reflects his loyalty rather than the truth!! We could tell him anything knowing we would not be judged. He was funny – for instance, teaching us risqué songs when Moira wasn’t listening. He could mend anything from toys to stilettos to car engines! At one time he had 3 Hillman Imps to service and repair as well he his own car! He was an excellent spider catcher, though did occasionally get grumpy when summoned by hysterical shrieks for the umpteenth time that day! He could sew. He could crochet. He could cook. He made cupboards, tables, sheds and a bridge across our stream. He built our conservatory from scratch. He did all sorts of clever stuff with electric wiring (which terrified Paul!).  Home improvements and repairs were his domain, he could turn his hand to anything. The slight downside to this, however, was that he rarely threw anything away that could conceivably have a use, so the garage, sheds and loft were often bursting at the seams!!

His patience was endless – as a 7 year old, I went through a stage of regularly waking him up in the night convinced I was going to be sick; he never once got cross with me, each time he just calmly explained the logical reasons why I wasn’t going to be sick. I have to say my mother slept very soundly on these occasions!!

He was a careful driver, rarely exceeding 40mph, but when we were running a bit late for my graduation, he hit 50mph on the A303 – Mum and I had jet lag when we reached Exeter!

Concern for our safety inspired him to become involved in local affairs. He joined the Fetcham Residents’ Association in 1967 to promote better road safety for schoolchildren. Lollipop ladies at the top and bottom ends of School Lane and bollards on Cobham Road where it joins School Lane were the results of his lobbying. In 1968 he joined the committee of the FRA as secretary and served in that post until 1995 when he became chairman, finally stepping down in 2008. During his tenure, amongst other campaigns, he was instrumental in keeping the M25 away from Fetcham (it had been planned to go right through the village and land had been earmarked for it).

In 1988 he was elected as a school governor to both Fetcham schools and rose to be chairman of both governing bodies, steering them through big changes to the National Curriculum. He served for 24 years on these bodies.

In 1984 he joined the Leatherhead and District Countryside Protection Society as Fetcham’s representative. During this period, he initiated the Frank Benger Trophy for individual achievement in schools.

He was also a long-standing member of the Leatherhead and District History Society and, amongst other articles, wrote 5 of the chapters in “The History of Fetcham” which was published in 1998.

He was proud to be a member of the British Legion and I remember him being the standard bearer and laying a wreath on behalf of the Residents Association each Remembrance Day.

In 1985, whilst on the Police Liaison Committee, he co-launched a trial scheme that became the Neighbourhood Watch, which now covers a major part of the village.

In the 1990s he joined the Norbury Park Advisory (now Liaison) committee as Fetcham’s representative.

In 2000 he received an Award for Achievement from Surrey County Council and in 2004 a Volunteers Award from Mole Valley Council.

Laying a wreath at the war memorial on Remembrance Sunday

You would think with all this, Ed would have no time for anything else – but he did. He was a keen photographer – even, briefly, turning professional – and an accomplished watercolour artist. In retirement, he took up wood turning and produced loads of beautiful pieces, which he often sold at fetes and fairs in aid of the church or other worthy village causes. He loved his garden and plants thrived under his care. He was an avid reader and was interested in a wide range of subjects – he even subscribed to a Yorkshire magazine when Paul and I moved up there. Until he finally lost his eyesight at the end of last year, he enjoyed doing codeword and crossword puzzles. His mind was always active and inquisitive right to the end. Cricket was a lifelong passion for him. He played from childhood well into his 50s and followed the adventures of Surrey and England’s cricket teams closely; there are cricket-related books all over his house and he was still following the test match in his final days.

And then there were his animals. He adored dogs and dogs adored him. There was always at least one dog resident at Ed and Moira’s, often more than one. He was delighted when a hedgehog moved into his garden. And he fed the birds every day – I have never seen so many fat birds in one garden!

I know he would want me to thank you all for coming today and to thank all those who helped him in his final few years. Having spent a lifetime caring for his family and community and looking after his mother, his wife’s aunty and his wife in their old age, it must have been a shock to him to need assistance himself. But he had the most fantastic neighbours who looked out for him and were there when he needed them – Ron and Sylvia, Peter and Jo, Kevin and Hayley, Stuart, Karen and Greg, Graham and Lynne. Thank you all for your kindness. In his last few months, he had some lovely carers from Alina Care, with whom he seems to have been a bit of a favourite. But most of all, he would want me to thank Wendy who looked after him so faithfully in his last few years – she was his carer, his nurse, his housekeeper, his gardener, his secretary, his personal shopper and, on many occasions, his fierce defender.

There’s so much more to say about him, but I shall stop here and give the last words to our daughter, Stephanie. On the day Ed died, she wrote to me: “I’m so lucky and proud to have had him as my Grandpa. I’ve got the most wonderful memories of him as a child which I cherish. I’ve never met another man who even comes close to him.” I couldn’t put it better myself. Sleep well darling Daddy.

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