Ethel Lester – A Tribute by Colin Barratt (Parish Council Chairman ) 9th March 2019

Ladies and Gentlemen, thank you all for coming.

I’ve been asked by the village hall committee to say a few words about Ethel Lester.

And when I look around at all the faces that knew her for so long I wonder why I was asked…well, you don’t refuse a request from the Village Hall Committee.

I’m a relative new comer to the village, only 17 years, so I thought that I would find out about Ethel’s dedication to our village through the minutes of the Parish Council meetings and memories of those who knew her best.

Ethel moved to West Challow in 1959 and very shortly was involved as clerk to the Parish Council. Sadly, many of the records of those early years are now missing, but people still remember her conscientiousness and growing commitment to the village.

By 1981, Pam Hotson, who was clerk to the Council, remembers Ethel, who was by now a councillor, as ‘someone very good to work with’ and ‘who had an encyclopaedic knowledge of the area… she knew everybody, and anything you wanted to know, ask Ethel.’

By 1987 my search becomes a little clearer when one of the remaining Parish Council records minutes Ethel as ‘Chair’ with Bill Young as Finance Officer. Bill went on to ‘serve 22 years,’ as did Pam Hotson.

And it’s through these ‘dusty minutes’ that a window is opened into what life was like in the village during those days, and more importantly, what Ethel’s contribution to the village was.

They had the same problems we have today; pot holes, planning applications, repair to roads and footpaths, flooding and drainage. The last one appears to be one of Ethel’s bug bears and constantly crops up throughout all the records.

What also crops up is the Village Hall. Ethel knew all about its history and is one of two signatures to the Trust Deed between The Church Commissioners and the Parish Council… the other is Pam Hotson.

In April 1988 a small paragraph in the minutes says that a questionnaire had been sent around the village, and as a result a Village Hall Committee would be formed with Mr. Eoin Lees as Chairman and yes, you’ve guessed it, Ethel was on the committee. Also at that time the Vale of White Horse District Council rejected an application for a bar and alcohol licence. Thank the Lord that was soon put right.

From here on the minutes, besides recording the everyday business of running a council, are literally peppered with fund raising events for the village hall. And it’s here that Ethel really comes into her own. There are Bingo evenings, Tree

Maintenance Parties, Summer Fetes, Cricket Matches, BBQ’s, Silent Auctions, Bonfire Night Parties, Christmas Parties… the list is endless, and throughout it all Ethel’s commitment and dedication to the village becomes more and more apparent.

One thing that is more prolific than others are Ethel’s Cheese and Wine Evenings. They appear on almost every recorded meeting and one that sticks out is Ethel wanted a PC Platt to give a talk to the village about Neighbourhood Watch at one of her Cheese and Wine Events. It’s recorded that PC Platt readily accepted and thoroughly enjoyed himself.

Besides all this, and if that was not enough, Ethel also worked tirelessly on the Church Committee.

Ethel could best be described as one of the driving forces in the Village.

Bill Young remembers her energy and hard work for the village.

John Bunting remembers her fondly as the Matriarch of the village who would do anything for anyone.

John’s daughter Jeanette remembers her making her wedding cake.

In fact Ethel’s character was summed up so eloquently by Alison Boyd’s tribute at her funeral when she described her as ‘a wonderful and generous woman.’

That spirit is continuing today by our Village Hall Committee. They still have the same problems, raising funds for the leaking roof and creaking electrics, but they still have Ethel’s work ethos. ‘Always for the Community and the Village first.’

finally, to remember Ethel, the Village Hall Committee and the Parish Council have made available funds to buy a climbing rose called ‘Ethel’ it’s a soft shade of pink and will be put into the garden at the front of the hall with some of her favourite plants and a brass plate is to be engraved to the memory of Ethel.

Before I end this tribute I have been asked by Vanessa, her daughter, to extend her thanks and gratitude to all those kind people who sent flowers, cards and messages to her and her family.

So can I please ask you all to charge your glasses and drink a bumper toast to Ethel Lester.

Thank you.