Thursday, 26 November 2020

Call for permanent memorial to former parish council leader

A MEMORIAL to former parish and district councillor Ann Ducker should be created in Goring, says

A MEMORIAL to former parish and district councillor Ann Ducker should be created in Goring, says one of her old colleagues.

Stephanie Bridle, who served on the parish council when Councillor Ducker was chairwoman in the Eighties, believes there should be a permanent reminder of her contributions to the village.

She has suggested including some additional features when the gates to Rectory Gardens, off High Street, are refurbished.

The parish council, which owns the land, says it is willing to consider the idea but doesn’t believe this is a suitable location.

The land was gifted to the village in 1939 by Sir James Edmondson in memory of his 21-year-old daughter Peggy, who died in a boating accident in Dorset. It is protected by a covenant that says no changes should be made.

Mrs Bridle, of Cleeve Road, Goring, told a council meeting: “It would be really appropriate to have those new gates with maybe a wooden or carved archway for Ann Ducker.

“I strongly feel we should remember everything she did for us and something right in the middle of the village would prompt people.”

Cllr Ducker, who died in September after a short illness, moved to Goring in the Seventies. She initially lived in Wallingford Road before moving to South Stoke Farm, near Wallingford, to live with her husband Philip. Mr Ducker was later diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and his wife cared for him until his death in 2001.

She was elected as a Conservative district councillor in 1983 and kept her seat at every subsequent election, serving as South Oxfordshire’s chairman from 1992 to 1994. She became leader of the authority’s Conservative group in 1995 and council leader in 2003. In 2010 she was made an MBE for services to local government.

As the parish council chairwoman, she oversaw the building of a new sports pavilion on Gardiner recreation ground more than 20 years ago. The village was split on the issue but she liaised with both sides to reach a consensus.

Last year she arranged a meeting between Tesco, which wanted to open an Express store at the former Queen’s Arms pub in Reading Road, and residents who opposed the scheme.

Parish council chairman Kevin Bulmer said the idea of a memorial could be considered but that Rectory Gardens was not suitable to honour only one person.

Mrs Bridle replied: “Could it be time to get legal advice on changing the covenant? There is already a seat in Rectory Gardens remembering someone else as well as the village sign, so the agreement has already been breached.”

After the meeting, she said: “I knew it would be controversial because the council has this idea that it can’t change anything, which is nonsense. We should be doing something but if we don’t act soon the moment will be gone.

“Ann was involved with lots of people and groups but this should come from the council as a thank-you from the whole village. She was a brilliant friend to many, not just to me, and dealt with issues as they arose. She never procrastinated but looked for the best solutions as soon as issues were reported. She was even-handed, pleasant and generous and had a great ability to see both sides of an argument. She would always set aside her personal feelings in order to reach a balanced answer.”

Cllr Bulmer said: “The council has no formal view but I think it’s wrong to try to change the covenant just because some time has passed. However, we’re going to need new housing over the next few years and developers will likely ask us to suggest road names. It would be subject to discussion but naming a street after Cllr Ducker could be a more prominent gesture than a bench or a plaque.”

• A community notice board in Cllr Ducker’s memory is to be installed at Westholme Stores in Wallingford Road, Goring. It has been commissioned by her daughters Catherine Tustain, who still lives at the family home, and Sarah Ducker, who lives in London. Jack Patel, who has run the grocery store and off-licence for 27 years, said: “I worked with her on quite a few occasions. She gave a lot to the community and would always stop and listen when people spoke to her outside the shop.” Miss Ducker said: “Mum was very fond of Jack and his shop is central to the village so it seemed appropriate. We’ve done the board in Conservative blue so it will be quite a statement.”

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