Friday, 12 August 2022

Vince Hill loses wife of 57 years

SINGER Vince Hill says he cannot contemplate life without his beloved wife Annie following her death

SINGER Vince Hill says he cannot contemplate life without his beloved wife Annie following her death two weeks ago.

He says he still talks to his wife of 57 years and that a future without her fills him with “horror”.

Speaking to the Henley Standard at his home in Shiplake, where the couple lived for more than 35 years, Hill said: “I keep looking at Annie’s empty side of the bed and I talk to her as if she’s there.

“I’m just going to miss her so much that I can’t contemplate it at the moment. I’ll burst into tears if I’m not careful.

“The fact I can talk to you now without tears streaming down my face is a miracle — I’ve cried quite a lot.”

Mrs Hill died on September 22 from a degenerative lung condition, aged 77.

The singer said: “My life in front of me now looks like one big empty space. I don’t, and won’t, know what to do with it, or about it, for a while. Thinking of the future without her fills me with horror.

“I have lived here for some periods on my own when Annie has had to go into hospital or to Sue Ryder, but I can visit up there.

“It’s different because you know where your partner is and she’s going to come back — death is so final.

“She wanted me to go out and ‘bloody enjoy yourself as much as you can and live as normal a life as much as you can’. I can think about it and that’s about it. I can no more action it.”

Recalling his wife, the 82-year-old said: “She was a wonderful, loving, giving person but she could be the other way very quickly if somebody crossed her! She said what she meant and she meant what she said.

“We still had a laugh from time to time. She was a phenomenally strong, boiling cauldron of a woman.”

He said the couple’s greatest achievement was the birth of their son Athol in 1971 after 12 years of trying for a child.

“We thought we couldn’t have children for 12 years and along came Athol,” said Hill. “We were overjoyed.

“He was born, I was starring in the Talk of The Town and had a hit record in the charts called Look Around (And You’ll Find Me There) and that all happened in one week.”

The couple lost Athol in January 2014 following a drug overdose. He was 42. Later that year the couple offered a sculpture to Henley as a memorial to their son.

Hill, best known for his 1967 hit Edelweiss, said he went to view his wife’s body at Tomalin & Son in Reading Road on Tuesday and said: “She looked just beautiful.

“I think seeing her has sort of, in a funny kind of way, lifted a weight off my shoulders if you like. I feel she’s in a happier place and she looked wonderful.”

He said his wife had become “sick and tired” with the way she was having to live.

He explained: “She was surrounded by this oxygen piping all the time. If we went out we had to go with a separate oxygen cylinder. If she was up to it we’d go out to lunch on rare occasions.”

The day after her death, the singer himself was admitted to Royal Berkshire Hospital in Reading where he spent almost a week as surgeons removed stones from his liver duct.

He said he had felt unwell for weeks but put it down to stress.

He was discharged from hospital on Thursday last week and said: “I’m getting a little bit stronger every day. I had no idea I was as bad as I was. I was feeling terrible and had been for a couple of weeks.” Hill said one of the stones was about the size of a thumbnail, adding: “That was mostly what was making me feel so awful so my big thing is getting my strength back.

“I’m going to have to go back in six to eight weeks’ time to check everything. Everybody said ‘you’ll feel wonderful when this is done’ but I don’t feel wonderful and I haven’t felt wonderful. I just put it down to stress and looking after Annie and just doing what I’ve been doing for the last two or three years.”

Hill described his wife as his “guiding light” in both his professional and personal life who changed his fortunes as a singer.

He met Annie in 1957 when she was secretary to top London agent Tito Burns who was looking after Cliff Richard and the Drifters, as they were then known, among others. The couple married in 1959.

He had been in a group called The Raindrops performing on Parade of the Pops every week but wanted more. Hill recalled: “It was safe and we worked quite well. Annie used to say, ‘why don’t you make the break finally’. She said, ‘if you don’t bloody leave, I’ll leave you!’

“Annie was there all the time. If it hadn’t been for her, I wouldn’t have left The Raindrops.”

With her guidance, he launched his solo career in May 1962 when Piccadilly Records released his debut single The Rivers Run Dry, which became his first UK hit and led to TV appearances.

Hill was then signed by EMI and went on to have a string of hit singles, including Roses Of Picardy, Love Letters In The Sand, Look Around (And You’ll Find Me There) and his million-selling signature tune Edelweiss, taken from the Rogers and Hammerstein’s musical The Sound Of Music. He said: “I valued her advice. I rarely went against what her wishes would be in the end. Woe betide me if I did! We did everything together, we went everywhere, we had some wonderful times and went to some wonderful places.”

The couple travelled to Australia and New Zealand as well as the Far East for Hill’s career.

He said: “She’d always come with me and we always had great times — lots of Indonesian food!”

In later life the couple were well known in Shiplake and the surrounding area and attended countless charity and community events together and the singer regularly performed free of charge.

In 2009, the couple celebrated their golden wedding anniversary and invited 130 friends to their home for a party.

Mrs Hill’s funeral was due to take place at Henley town hall today (Friday) when her husband’s recording of I’ll Be Seeing You will be played.

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