Funeral tribute by Peter Bridge
When I was contemplating who to ask to say a few words about David, my father, it quietly dawned on me that there are probably only a handful of people in this congregation who have known him longer than I have, and certainly only two or three who have known him as well. So here goes...
David was born on November 6th 1923 at Prestwich in Lancashire, the younger son of a Manchester businessman with interests in the cotton trade. His brother Arthur, who went into the business, died only 3 years ago at the age of 92. When he was 5, the family moved to Wilmslow to a house which had several paddocks, certainly enough ground for a pony or two. It was here that he was taught to ride and developed his love of horses. Indeed, this love of horses may have had something to do with a score of 5/300 in a maths exam. He wrote to his mother saying that he had had a wonderful day hunting with the Meynall and that he hadn't got back to school on his pony until 5.30. PS Oh! Exams start tomorrow Mum!
After Ash House in Derby, he went on to Malvern, a school the family have had, and still have, very close links with. In 1939 the whole school was requisitioned by the Admiralty, and Malvern moved en masse to Blenheim Palace for a very memorable year: They had to dig trenches in the park as landing gliders were considered a real threat. They were not allowed to use ink, only pencils - to protect the furnishings. Once, on a later visit to Blenheim, he showed me where his bed had been in the Long Library which had been used as a san during an epidemic of chicken pox.
After Malvern, he had two years at Harper Adams doing a National Diploma in Agriculture and he has always kept a keen interest in the development of the college.
He then tried to join up but was told that he was in a reserved occupation and was given a job with the War Ag. However, in July 1944, after applying again, he was given a choice of submarines or Fleet Air Arm. He chose the latter and served with them until being demobbed in February 1946.
He became a "mud" student working for Alfred Clark, at Churncote. Here he kept a show jumper and competed at the Flower Show. This involved hacking through the centre of Shrewsbury and back again. One of his chief jobs was delivering milk to the local hospitals and sanatoriums as Churncote was one of the few farms with tuberculin free tested cattle.
In 1947 his "big breakthrough" came when he secured the tenancy of Bronhyddan at Llansantffraid, where he started with 16 Ayrshire cows. He still managed to find time to serve on the Rural District Council and, on one occasion, ended up giving the Vicar of Llanfechain a lift on the back of his grey Fergie to a meeting at Llanfyllin, as it was very snowy. He was a church warden at Llansantffraid, as well as starting his 63 years of membership with the (Royal British) Legion.
However, there were other interests in Llansantffraid and he shortly met the girl next door - Margaret, who lived at Melyniog. They were married in 1952.
During this period he and Margaret enjoyed the odd day with the North Shropshire and he rode Point to Points for Dorothy Roberts from Brongain and won the adjacent Hunts Maiden at Eyton Upon Severn on Royal Warrant.
David was very fortunate to have a superb man in Emrys Arthur to help and advise him. Emrys started working for my father in 1947 and carried on right up to his retirement when the tenancy of Pen-y-Bryn was given up in the mid 80s.
In 1957, a year after I had appeared on the scene, and 2 years after Trish had, they bought Stanwardine from Bob Richards and moved into this area. They kept a mixed farm with Ayrshire Cows, Pigs and battery laying Hens and also grew cereals. They were made to feel tremendously welcome by all their neighbours; indeed Eric Williams from Nillgreen, Frank Dickin from Stanwardine Grange, and Stanley Hulme from Kenwick Lodge used to come and play billiards, and latterly snooker, every Monday night in the winter. It used to be the Ayrshires versus the Friesians as Eric and Dad kept Ayrshires and Stanley and Frank, Friesians. They started in 1958 and finally finished about 3 years ago. I can honestly say that despite playing for about 50 years they never got any better for, at the very most, they would only get through 2 frames in an evening and usually only one, with the colours just up for the second frame. It might have had something to do with the bottles of Scotch but they would have spent the evening talking draining, farming, shooting, hunting, racing and, interestingly, vicars as well, as two of them were church wardens. He particularly enjoyed the rivalry of regular matches against The Broadlands.
David became involved in a huge range of organisations, and local community positions:
- He was very active with the NFU in the 60s and 70s, particularly with regard to eggs.
- He was Church Warden at Weston for over 25 years.
- He was a Governor of Weston School and Baschurch.
- He was a member of Cockshutt Legion and latterly, Baschurch.
- He was involved with the West Mid Show in one way or another from the time of the war, and certainly stewarded the Hunter Section for very many of those years.
- He particularly enjoyed his involvement with Oswestry Show and was hugely honoured to be President in 1996.
- He joined Brownlow Lodge in 1965 and subsequently The Mark Lodge and was also involved with the Province. He was very accomplished when asked to help with part of the ceremony.
- He served on the Wynnstay Hunt Committee for a number of years. On one occasion, when helping with the Point to Point at Eaton Hall, he was instructed not to let any car use the back drive. So, when a car headed firmly in that direction he stopped the driver and asked her where she thought she was going. "Home for lunch I hope" she replied!
Despite David's involvement with so many organisations, the farm always came first. Luckily he had the support of a very loyal and dependable local work force who he was always hugely appreciative of. He worked tremendously hard, as of course, did Margaret who used to rear all the chicks to point of lay as well as doing the books, the garden and a thousand other things. He was also a great support to me when he handed the running of the farm over to me as soon as I finished at Harper. He carried on feeding calves right up to last year. Handing the farm over did however give him the opportunity to re-involve himself with the Pony Club as Will was just getting going with his riding by then. And he enjoyed nothing more than a day spent chatting to friends whilst watching Trish, Will and even the grandchildren competing at various hunter trials and events around the country.
He and Margaret took up Hill Walking with a great passion and climbed virtually all the peaks in North Wales. He even went up Snowdon on his 70th birthday.
The "Walking" evolved into "Bridge and Walking" holidays. David never played bridge but was always very content to chat in the background or take his ease with the newspaper.
The last year of David's life was very difficult but we were all hugely grateful for the excellent care he received from Elaine and her team at Ellesmere Community Nursing Home.
David touched the lives of a lot of people over his long life and he always conducted himself as a Christian and as so many of you have said in your wonderfully kind cards and letters, a true gentleman. And for all of us who have been privileged to know him, whether it be as a relation, friend or neighbour, he will be sadly missed. But we will all be the better for having known him and having benefited from his charm and wise counsel.
Announcement in Shropshire Star 27th October 2011
BRIDGE David James Of Stanwardine Hall, Cockshutt. Passed away peacefully at Ellesmere Community Nursing Home on Tuesday, October 25, 2011, aged 87 years. Beloved Husband of Margaret, Father of Peter, Trish and Will, Father-in-law of Fiona and Adele and Grandfather of Henry, Charles, Edward, Liza and Roma. Funeral Service to be held at All Saints Church, Baschurch, on Friday, November 4, 2011, at 12 noon, followed by Interment in Holy Trinity, Weston Lullingfields. Family flowers only please. Donations to be divided between Holy Trinity, Weston Lullingfields, Ellesmere Community Nursing Home and The Royal British Legion. Inquiries please to the Funeral Directors E J EDGERTON & SON 01948 710286 or 01691 624444.
According to John Worrall, the Church Warden, approximately 320 people attended the funeral in Baschurch, and the church was full, which was a very fitting tribute, together with the many wonderful cards and letters of condolence.
Over £1800 pounds was raised from the collection which was split between The Royal British Legion, Holy Trinity Weston Lullingfields, and Ellesmere Community Nursing Home.
His life in pictures: http://www.stanwardine.com/David_James_Bridge_in_Pictures.htm
Letters to his mother whilst at school and in the Navy: http://www.stanwardine.com/Letters_from_David_Bridge.htm
His foot and mouth diary for a farmers' magazine: http://www.stanwardine.com/genepic/Dad_Diary_Foot_Mouth.pdf