I was sad to learn that Anthony Hawkey had died. He was 96 and had lived in Egloshayle Road, Wadebridge, north Cornwall for all his life except for a year up Gonvena Hill (also in Wadebridge). He was a true Cornishman.
I knew him as an activist in the Cornwall Ramblers; he was a founder of the Camel Group and chairman of Cornwall Area for many years. He doggedly defended public rights of way, arguing with farmers, council officers and developers over blocked paths. He was one of those volunteers who never gave up. His lyrical, forthright Cornish tones were a hallmark of the Cornwall Ramblers’ meetings; he spoke as though preaching to his fellow Methodists.
His daughter Alison Gunderson gave a eulogy at his funeral on 11 August, summing him up beautifully. This is what she said, slightly abbreviated.
My Dad didn’t move far—apart from a year up Gonvena Hill, his whole life was lived on Egloshayle Road. The house where he was born is now the chapel of rest where he has lain for the last days, ending where he began.
Anthony by the River Camel
The River Camel flowed through his veins. As a boy he spent a lot of time in and on the river, later he worked upstream, in Camelford. Until very recently he would cross the road every day, to stand and watch the river flow by.
He was born at Bridge End during the Great War. His grandfather (William Anthony Hawkey) had set up there as a wheelwright, and his father (William Anthony Hawkey) moved into the motor business. It was a different world, when the garage incorporated a blacksmith’s shop, and carpenters constructed vehicles ‘from trees’ as Dad would say. He used to tell of his father driving home from the Midlands, just the chassis of a charabanc, to which they would add the coachwork. More than once the local policeman caught him ‘borrowing’ cars from the garage and driving around town, Anthony Hawkey the under-age joyrider! He got away with it because there were almost no other cars on the road then.
From ten he began the daily train-ride to school in Bodmin, where he seems to have done well with minimum effort. Although he continued to drive taxis and help out, he had no interest in going into the family business. His first job was with Cornwall County Council, working in the office at the quarry at Sladesbridge. They produced stone for road-building. Road works were not done during the winter, so for half the year he worked longer days, cycling to Sladesbridge for six in the morning, and for the other half had virtually nothing to do.
Dad would have been 21 when war broke out. Throughout his life he had strong opinions and a determination to do what he believed to be right. Even at such a young age, he was a committed pacifist, which he believed was the logical outworking of his Christian faith. He left his job when the quarry began producing stone for military airfields. Around the same time he must have received his call-up papers, registered as a conscientious objector, and was summoned before a tribunal. Never afraid to speak up for the truth as he saw it, he convinced them of his absolute sincerity and his conscience was respected. He remained a pacifist until his life’s end.
He expected to be put to farm labouring during the war. Instead, he was directed into local government. There began a career with Camelford Rural District Council which lasted until local government reorganisation in 1974. He took early retirement just before his 56th birthday. Camelford RDC meant a great deal to him. As with everything he did, he gave his all to the job and the people he served, and did it to the utmost of his considerable ability.
Anthony at Lanhydrock
Walking was a passion, and he was out on cliffs, moors and fields in all weathers. He was a member of the Ramblers, one of the founders of the Camel group and, as he would proudly tell anyone who would listen, Chairman of the Cornwall area. He would do battle with anyone who tried to interfere with rights of way. I had hoped to send him into the next life with his walking boots on, but apparently boots can’t be cremated. But he has with him a thumb-stick cut out of a hedge somewhere.
He loved music; playing with bands and singing in choruses. He was a lifelong Methodist, serving variously as Sunday school teacher, youth leader, choir member, church treasurer, and circuit steward in the old Camelford and Wadebridge circuit. I remember Sunday School trips, with as many children as could be crammed into the back of his VW camper-van, long before risk assessments had been invented. With his sister Nesta he set up for the young people of Wadebridge; he organised games at church socials and helped with the Churches’ tent at the Royal Cornwall Show. Some will remember arguing with him in church councils and circuit meetings. When he had decided what was right, he would stick to it wholeheartedly, and he didn’t often lose an argument. A great quality, though one that could make him difficult to live with.
He didn’t move house often or very far, but he did travel a bit. He used to tell the tale of cycling to Bristol for a holiday. The police were looking for an escaped prisoner on Dartmoor, and every few miles he was stopped and interrogated. In later years he always talked of the time he cycled to Cardiff—and we shall never know if that really was another trip, or if the story had got bigger with the telling!
But the single most important event of his life may have been attending ‘Sladesbridge Chapel’s harvest festival weeknight’, as he used to describe it. They were planning a holiday and there was a spare place. Dad took it, and on that holiday he met Hilda Brown, my Mum, the love of his life. After 66 years of the happiest of marriages, she will miss him incalculably.
And so will all who knew him.
William Anthony Hawkey, 1918-2014