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Courtesy of Richard Lewis
Clive Wood
13th June 1939 - 29th March 2023

Eulogy - May 4th 2023  Rushden St Mary’s Church


Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen

It is my privilege to be able to say a few words in memory and also praise of our dear departed friend and colleague, Clive, and I hope you will accept the occasional repetition.

I suppose in many ways Clive’s actual name gives a very good clue to his character.

Clive would always try to help you if he possibly could.

Not that one was exactly sure exactly when or at what time day or night it might happen.

Now I appreciate that this next thought may be difficult, but if for a moment you could imagine Clive as a stick of rock, then the lettering in the middle would simply say,  ‘Clive - Rushden’.

A more devoted person to our town of Rushden would be very difficult to find.

Alternatively, the lettering in the stick of rock would certainly not say ‘Clive – Master of Technology’.

In fact I think that Clive and technology were pretty incompatible terms.

Nonetheless, a quite unique person that we have all been privileged to have known.

There is a very large amount of information available about Clive, and so to some extent I could just refer everyone to the Rushden Research group website called ‘Hearts and Souls’.

Clive gave copies of all of his pictures and information about Rushden to the research group. However, I hope that you have not all read in detail the information about Clive on this superb website.

One of the website pages is simply titled ‘Clive Wood –Signwriter’.

But just how much more there was to Clive than that.

Clive’s chosen career was of course to be a signwriter, and rather like the slide rule, as his earliest employer pointed out, eventually the art would disappear.

Very early on in his school life at Tennyson Road School, his artistic talent was recognised and clearly supported by his headmaster. At the school Clive designed the school cap and blazer badges and also ended up as the Head Boy.

Sometime after leaving the school he co-wrote a book on the school which raised some £600 for charity.

But Clive had a much wider range of interests.

One of his very early campaigns was back in the sixties, which was to try and prevent the demolition of Rushden Hall.

This had been considered as an option in 1960 by the then Rushden Urban District Council.

Clive joined with Arthur George who led the campaign to save the Hall with the key action of canvassing the town councillors to save it. Sounds familiar I guess.

Fortunately the campaign to save the Hall was successful and in 1967 he was largely instrumental in setting up the Rushden Amenities Society to look after Rushden Hall.

Sadly the Hall had deteriorated significantly as some of his photographs record.

Apparently some of the other photographs which Clive gave to the research group had been taken in Rushden High Street with Clive driving a van and Arthur George on the roof taking pictures. So much for health and safety and risk assessments. You would probably fall off now anyway due to the pot holes.

Rushden Hall to a large extent became Clive’s baby which he nurtured over many years to follow.

I think my first contact with Clive was in the 70’s when Clive used to design and paint the Rushden Carnival Queen’s float. Plus painting a lot of other carnival floats.

Here Clive demonstrated his artistic talents using a broad brush and emulsion paint. Each year a newly decorated float would appear in Rolf Harris painting style. Notice I emphasise here the painting style.

In the later years of carnival I ended up housing the float in a garage I owned, the only disadvantage being that the annual emulsion painting left quite a lot of paint on the tarmac yard.

Clive was also an expert on painting the so called carnival boards. Albeit of course Clive painted hundreds of other boards of all sizes for his business sign writing work.

Our boards were to advertise the carnival and after the carnival was over in 2000, there were boards for the town council Party in the Park and other events.

Usually I would take the five boards to the miniature stately home in Woodland Road, also known as ‘The Vyne’.

They would be left in the porch for Clive to paint usually over the next two weeks.

The Woodland Road house was undoubtedly a unique house in Rushden. Was it a coincidence that Clive Wood built in Woodland Road?

The house was designed by Clive and constructed as history in miniature with old ingredients from all around.

Clive describes The Vyne ‘that it was built to use up an accumulation of material acquired at a time of wanton destruction.’ Now rephrased as recycling!

The Vyne is in fact one of the few Rushden houses to have its own page on the website.

Coming back to the boards, it was my job to over paint the boards each year with gloss paint ready for Clive to signwrite.

One year for my own convenience I used emulsion paint and Clive then gave me quite a polite lecture on why it should be gloss paint. I only did that once.

When Clive moved from the Vyne in Woodland Road to the so called ‘dolls house’ in Wheatcroft Gardens, this was squeezing at least two quarts into a pint pot if ever there was.

With the lack of space in the dolls house the boards now had to be painted in my garage.

At painting time Clive would arrive with his flask and sandwich and I then realised just how much time it took to paint the five boards.

It was a pleasure to watch a craftsman at work and to see just how painstaking the work really was.

Over the years the town council has managed to amass around 40 Clive painted boards for different events.

In 1974 Rushden town council was absorbed into East Northants District Council.

By some quirk at the time, whereas all of the other towns and villages in ENC kept their parish councils, Rushden’s ceased to exist.

This meant that Rushden Hall was effectively lost to Rushden and controlled by some 36 councillors at East Northants Council, most of whom did not live in Rushden.

This is must have been quite devastating for Clive since the fate of Rushden Hall was now largely out of the hands of Rushden councillors.

I suspect that this was a major reason for Clive standing as an East Northants Councillor and in 1976 he was successfully elected to ENC.

He was possibly working on the principle of ‘better to be close to your enemies rather than at a distance’.

Clive was not really a very political person.

Knocking on strange people’s doors and asking them to vote for him was not his scene.

Stuffing envelopes and delivering letters was much more acceptable.

Nonetheless Clive regularly topped the poll in his ward which was an indication of his popularity.

Apart from a four year enforced break in the 90’s Clive remained on ENC until a few years ago when he voluntarily hung up his political boots.

During his time at ENC he was unique in being the chairman in both 1985 and again in 2010, and you will notice the years just happen to be 25 years apart.

Clive was also uniquely the only Honorary Alderman created by ENC.

In 1985 Clive achieved what had to be the ultimate highlight of his ENC career when he was able to escort the Queen on her visit to Higham Ferrers.

What a joy that must have been for him but also the thought ‘that a Rushden man was the Queen’s main escort in Higham Ferrers’. Really a poke in the eye for Higham at the time.

And of course as ENC chairman he was invited to a Queen’s Garden Party which he attended and his mother accompanied him.

If you search the website you can actually find a picture of the couple with Clive resplendent in top hat and tails.

In the year 2000, Rushden was able to set up a new parish council and of course Clive was duly elected to this new council.

This also meant that Clive’s beloved Rushden Hall was returned to the ownership of Rushden.  Rushden councillors were now also able to select a mayor from their ranks, and Clive was the first natural choice. In fact he was mayor for the first two years of the new town council. This must have been quite a difficult time and the council now benefits from the hard work of those formative years.

Back in 2001 mayor Clive also raised the profile of the opening of the annual Rushden Feast, with the mayor performing the opening ceremony and inviting other civic dignitaries.

This continues to this day with each new mayor and is then followed by fish and chips at the Railway Station.

During his terms as a chairman or a mayor, Clive would frequently take his sister Jennie or other appropriate lady as his guest to different civic events.

When one of his lady guests was considering re-marrying, I guess after the first flush of youth so to speak, Clive showed his caring nature by asking the intended groom if his intentions were honourable. In the event they were and there was no need to worry.

I have hinted earlier at Clive’s limited expertise with the advancing thing called technology.

One area was emails, or why Clive never seemed to answer emails.

Having once sat down with Clive and his ENC laptop and battled through to show him where his emails were, we found that his inbox had some three thousand emails sitting in it.

Clive gave that typical wry smile and I don’t think he was too bothered with the situation though. He was probably thinking that life can go on without emails if you want.

I think a few of you here today may have also shared the technology experience.

On another occasion I mentioned that I had scanned my old 35mm slides and I could now see them as large pictures on my computer.

Ah! Came the comment, I have quite a lot of 35mm slides; could you do that with mine please?

Clive duly came round with some 20 boxes, and as I subsequently found out, containing about 600 35mm slides collected over quite a few years.

Anyway, they were laboriously scanned five at a time and, somewhere, there could even be the memory stick with the results. No doubt also lost in the hidden depths of Clive’s laptop.

I had never looked at so many country houses and monuments before or since.

But there are so many other local things that Clive was a major part of in Rushden including the Amenities Society, the History Society, the Rushden Museum, the Housemartins, all of which will have their own stories and memories.

I have only been able to glean and tell a few of the stories today, but the individual memories in each group will certainly live on.

Monuments in effect of all sorts to remember Clive by, abound the area starting with Rushden Hall, honours boards, signwritten vehicles and lots of other boards including the Rushden Station sign. Probably his last signwritten vehicle being the Abbots milk float on view at the station.

Rushden Hall was definitely Clive’s real baby which he nurtured for some 60 years. Back in 1967 the hall was in very poor condition and was not in a good condition when ultimately taken over by the town council in 2000.

However I am sure Clive has been delighted to see how the building has been fully restored by the town council and is now in daily use. 

The hall is full of items which Clive has obtained or restored or had some other artistic involvement.

Clive’s commitment to Rushden Hall and Park was never more in evidence than when just three days after his heart operation some years back, he was in the Hall gilding the crown for the new rose arbour.

The town clerk commented that she was privileged to be his apprentice gilder and actually allowed to help him.

The clerk added that she was always calling on Clive to create wonderful artistic boards which he never failed to deliver. The most memorable being the horses created for the animals in war at Remembrance Day and the queen’s beasts for various jubilees.

Also that Clive always seemed at his best creating his artwork in the old kitchen in his beloved Rushden Hall.

And a final comment was that the clerk visited many historic houses with Clive and never ceased to be amazed at his historical knowledge. Clive took a very long time to get around the buildings as he took great delight in ‘grilling’ the guides, who usually didn’t know as much as he did about their own historic houses.

The culmination of Clive’s love of Rushden Hall and what was his lifetime achievement, is his book on Rushden Hall; nearly 300 pages of information and of course produced with a little help from others with the technology.

So many things achieved by a very nice, pleasant and almost certainly unique person.

I think just a few words written by Clive at the end of his book make rather appropriate reading.

Clive writes

 ‘I have travelled very little, have never flown and have no desire to do so. Being involved in politics at town and district level has taken a considerable time. I have been honoured to be district chairman and town mayor and recently made an honorary alderman, the highlight of my civic life being the visit of the Queen to her Duchy estate in 1985.’

And he concludes :'when you consider how our town has changed in our lifetime, there must be many other stories that should be recorded and nothing, even today, lasts as long as the written word. Clive’.

And so on behalf of everyone here I extend our deepest sympathies to Jennie and family.

And finally our sincere thanks to you Clive; you may not have achieved great personal financial wealth, but you have left real wealth in your legacy to Rushden.

It has been a pleasure to have known you.

God bless you, and we look forward to you painting pictures in the sky for us.

cartoon by Peter Nevett And finally this tribute by Clive's
nephew Martin sums up Clive :

Ar ya bin t'Cloive's foonral Air Ada
Yis gel ennit a shayum
Fust the Queen annow-im
I spect ee weren't late fur thissen?

Oo-er ee wuz alluz late want ee gel
An ettin!
But ee wirra luverly chap
Want ee gel?

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