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   Eulogy for Dr P. R. Hill: 1913~2000   
read by his son John Hill
on 20th April, 2000

Peter Rowland Hill was born on the 18th September 1913 in Leicester. His parents were hard working people who had several pork butchers shops and who towards the end of their lives came to live at The Cottage (43 Main Street) in Wymondham. Some of you present may remember them.

His childhood and education were in Leicester where he attended the Wyggeston Grammar School. He did well both academically and in sporting terms, winning cups for swimming and representing the school for two years in their first XV rugby team. His academic ability resulted in his being offered a place at Cambridge University. He chose the other, less obvious route, and turned it down, preferring instead to go into his father’s business.

After a while he started manufacturing stuffing at Wymondham, initially in a small building which later became the village post office (47 Main Street - not the current location, 55 Main Street). He combined this undertaking with helping in his father’s business until the factory in Wymondham became available and, although much too large for his purposes, it was bought so that the stuffing manufacturing company could expand. This was the start of the Oakham Packing Company. He continued with this until 1996 when he was made an offer he could not refuse and it changed ownership, although he still ran it.

Some years later the new owners moved the manufacturing away from Wymondham and he was able to take the premises back, and thus Space Foods came into being. It is worthy of note that when he restarted the business there were members of staff who could have remained with the old Oakham Packing Company, but instead preferred to throw in their lot with Peter Hill and joined Space Foods.

Whilst all this was going on he found time to do other things, too.

In 1935 a new vicar was appointed to the parish, a Reverend Sherwin, who moved with his wife and two children from Birkin in Yorkshire to Wymondham. Revd Sherwin was the vicar in the village for 20 years, and there is a plaque in the chancel of the church recording his time here.

One of his two children was a girl called Joan Margaret, and she became Peter Hill’s wife.

I was told many years ago by my Grandmother Hill that one day she and her son were walking along Polka Walk in Wymondham when they passed an attractive young lady. After getting out of earshot he confided in her that “That’s the girl I’m going to marry” - and he did.

They were married in Wymondham church by Canon Smith of Waltham in 1942. Revd Sherwin was too busy that day to conduct the service: he was giving his daughter away in marriage.

My parents lived ever since in the same house, The Bowery, which they altered to their liking over a number of years. It is there that he died, as he would have wished.

The marriage produced three children. The eldest, Rosalind, in 1944; me, in 1946; and David, in 1949. We are all here today.

You might have thought that rearing a family and running a business was enough to keep anyone busy, but not him. In 1946 he became a Parish Councillor; a Rural District Councillor; and a County Councillor. The Council work was of great interest to him, and he was elected Chairman of the Rural District Council for some 12 years. Additionally he was made a magistrate in 1960 and sat on the bench at Melton.

As a County Councillor he was elected to be a County Alderman in 1961, but this position was abolished in the 1973 change of local government arrangements. He continued as a County Councillor after 1973, being repeatedly re-elected until his retirement from the Council.

In 1973 when the Rural District Council and the Urban District Councils were abolished and replaced by the Melton District Council as it then was, there was a requirement to have a chairman in place to start the meeting and, whilst he was not a member of the Council, it was he who was selected to take the chair for the first meeting, to enable the Council to come into being.

During his time on the County Council he was chairman of both the Education and the Highways Committees, and finally was elected chairman of the Council in 1984. At the same time as being a County Councillor he became involved in Loughborough University, and held the position of Honorary Treasurer. In 1974 the University bestowed upon him an Honorary Doctorate of Technology, in recognition of his service to the University.

You might think by now that you have heard of the lifetime achievements of two people, but no, there were many other interests in his very full life, and one that he will be remembered for in hundreds of years’ time was his interest, initially in veteran and vintage cars, which culminated in his buying Caister Castle in Norfolk in the mid 1960s, and the creation of his car museum. There he had built display rooms to house and show his growing collection of vehicles which are on display to the public in the summer months.

He knew that the collection was important on a national or even an international scale, and wanting to know that it would not be dispersed after his death, through taxation, he created a charitable trust to hold and look after the collection. There is no need to imagine that the collection and his and his wife’s name will not continue well into the future.

The inspiration and interest in collecting cars started one summer many years ago. I was there. It was at an open day at Belvoir Castle, and one of the side shows was of about half a dozen veteran cars. They really caught his imagination and thereafter he set out to assemble his own collection.

The very first car he bought was a 1902 Napier, which arrived ‘in bits’ and had to be rebuilt. He went on the London-Brighton run several times - and sometimes finished.

My father has one additional permanent record of some of his achievements, that is his coat of arms. On it is the fox, representing Leicestershire and his involvement with the County Council. The mint leaves and flowers record his association with the growing of herbs. The key shows his great interest in education, both on the County Council and also at Loughborough University. The wheel records his interest in cars and transport. In the centre of the shield is a representation of Caister Castle. And of course the motto - there always has to be a motto - it reads Me Faut Faire, which is French and a literal translation is I must be doing. A well-chosen description of his personality and vitality. As a matter of interest, Caister Castle was built in the early 15th Century by Sir John Falstaff, and this too was the motto on his coat of arms.

That Peter Hill was well respected by those who knew him was well summed up many years ago when he was negotiating a transaction with someone who did not know of him. “Who can you give me for a reference?” he was asked. He referred them to Oldham Marsh, at that time a well known solicitor and clerk of the Council in Melton, who when asked about Peter Hill’s reliability said, “If Hill says he will do something, he will do it.”

Ill health did not affect my father much during his life, but near-death experiences did. In 1985 he suffered a very serious heart attack, and without his wife’s very prompt attention he would not have been got to the hospital in time. As it was, he had to be resuscitated in the Cromer hospital by a doctor, to whom he ever since sent a present on the anniversary.

He had another heart attack in May 1999 which, considering his age, was very serious. With great determination he managed to sufficiently recover to come home and resume normal life. Again, getting him to hospital in time was entirely due to his wife.

He and my mother were inseparable, a well matched pair and in the last of his days when he was very poorly she helped and nursed him without regard to her own comfort or wellbeing, and with no regrets.

He leaves behind his wife Joan - they were married for 58 years - their three children, seven grandchildren and two great-grandchildren; and many, many people who enjoyed his company and generosity and appreciated his wisdom and clarity of thought. They will have their own personal memories of a very special man.

He was a man of his times. He will be greatly missed.

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