Peter Hurrell obituary: a life in Thurlestone, Bantham and West Buckland

By Sam Acourt in Local People

A PIECE of Thurlestone, Bantham and Buckland has gone as Peter Hurrell was laid to rest on Friday, December 23.

An active member of the local community, people have said that they can’t imagine the place without him.

Peter William James Hurrell was born in Plymouth to Ernie and Vera Hurrell of West Buckland on March 21, 1937. They lived in Wisteria Cottage until Peter was nine, when they moved to Woodlands in West Buckland. He never lived anywhere else in his whole life.

Peter attended the primary school in Bantham for a year, before it closed and he went to All Saints Primary School in Thurlestone, the same primary school his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren attended.

After primary school, he progressed to Kingsbridge School, leaving at the age of 15 to apprentice as a brick-layer with Scobles.

He delayed his National Service until after his apprenticeship was completed, and then joined the Devon and Dorset Regiment. He was posted to Germany and was there when the Munich Air Disaster happened that killed 23 people, many members of the Manchester United Football team.

Peter’s son Simon recalls his father telling them it ‘was so cold there, the Brylcreem used to freeze on our hair’.

After Germany, Peter was posted to Cyprus for six months during the conflict in the 1950s, acting as a lorry driver. The rest of his two years of National Service was spent in England.

Following his stint in the army, Peter returned to West Buckland and worked as a builder, starting Peter Hurrell Builders.

Peter met his beloved wife Jean Webber in 1959 at a dance in the Albion Town Hall in Kingsbridge and they were married in St Michael and All Angels, Loddiswell, in October 1962.

When they married, they split the family house, Woodlands, into two, with Peter and Jean having one half and his parents having the other. The land attached to the house is often used for the parish’s mid-summer festival, carol services and apple festivals, with Peter’s kind permission.

Their son Simon was born in 1963, followed by Andrew in 1967 and Michael in 1972.

Simon remembers his earliest memory of his father was ‘helping’ him with building work when he was three or four, carrying a little bucket of sand backwards and forwards and walking their old black labrador Juno.

They fished together too, ‘We were coming back from Burgh Island one day’, said Simon, ‘and I caught a fish, it must have been nearly two-foot long, and as I reeled it in I lost it. Just at that second my brother Andy caught one.

‘He’d caught my fish! We spent the rest of the trip into land arguing over who’d caught it since Andy had it on his line, but it had my hook in its mouth!’ he laughed.

Peter was a founder member of Bantham Surf Living Saving Club, an original member of their committee, their first captain and the first coxswain of their rescue boat. He was also a member of the Hope Cove Auxiliary Coastguard for 30 years.

He was also a member of the Thurlestone Parish Council for 41 years, 21 of those as chair, stepping down from the role in 2014. He told the Gazette at the time that ‘If a job is worth doing, it is worth doing properly. I’m very sorry to the parishioners but I cannot carry on as I can’t do a proper job for them.

‘I always aimed to leave when I was still wanted, not for people to say “I’m glad that old fool’s gone”.’

Peter spent a lot of time and effort fighting for his parish, and he battled to keep ‘Thurlestone Sands’ named as such, rather than being renamed as ‘South Milton Sands’ and was still a member of the parish hall maintenance committee when he died.

He sourced the photos for the book ‘The Story of Thurlestone, Bantham and West Buckland: told with the help of old photographs’, a collaboration between himself, Kendall McDonald and Neil Girling, and delivered the Village Voice, the magazine that is still written and produced in the parish.

Peter officially retired in 2002 at the age of 65, and his wife Jean died in June of that year. In reality, he kept working until he was 70.

A keen darts player, Peter was a member of the Sloop Inn, Bantham, and Pig’s Nose, Prawle, darts teams for more than 40 years. He was also a member of Tug’O’War teams, once winning the Devon and Far Western Championships in one year, around 1976 or 1977.

His sons Simon and Andy won the same thing, pulling for the Forces Tavern in Blackawton in the 1990s, but rather than being impressed, Peter told them, with a glint in his eye, that ‘it was harder in the 1970s!’

After he retired, he bought himself a motorbike and rode with the ‘Loddiswell Chapel’, the South Hams’ answer to the Hell’s Angels, but much gentler, only giving up riding when an operation on his hand prevented him from pulling the clutch.

A keen fisherman, Peter held a mooring at Bantham for four decades. After his first boat ‘Jane’, he bought the hull of a Plymouth Pilot, doing it up himself and naming it after his first grandchild Charlotte Louise. She was sold, but is still on the Avon.

Peter was dad to Simon and Sarah, Andy and Helen, Mike and Nikki, grandad to Charlotte, Katie, Tom, Dan, Laura, Matt, Jamie and Ellie and great-granddad to Owen, Hendrix, Aurora and Char’s ‘little seed’, who is due in February. He will be sorely missed by all who knew him.

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