About Ian Valentine (2nd March 1934 - 8th October 2019)

Ian researched over 320 people from Wivenhoe who fought in WW1 and who did a great deal more in his life

Peter Hill

Ian Valentine holding the The Roll of Honour before walking it down to St Mary's Church in November 2016 in the Royal British Legion procession from the Congregational Church.
Peter Hill, Chairman, Wivenhoe History Group, who presented Ian Valentine with a personal copy of the Roll of Honour in November 2016.
Photo by Jeannie Coverley
The Order of Service at Ian Valentine's Thanksgiving Service on 6th November 2019

This page and the text below are a tribute to our dear friend and colleague, Ian Valentine, who died on 8th October 2019, aged 85, after a short illness.

Although he and his wife Jane had only lived in Wivenhoe for around 10 years, he had become quite well-known in our community through contributions to Wivenhoe News and his involvement in several local organisations as the Wivenhoe Sailing Club, the St Mary’s Bell Ringers, and the Wivenhoe History Group. With the latter, he volunteered to become its first Secretary and first Membership Secretary when the History Group was founded in 2013.

When, in 2014, this Group began a project to research WW1, Ian decided to research all of the people who were named on the Wivenhoe War Memorial, all 46 of them. This led him to find a quote in a newspaper from Colonel T. Gibbons who, when he unveiled the War Memorial in June 1921, is reported to have said that 400 men from Wivenhoe answered the call and signed up to serve their country in war. Ian saw this as a personal challenge to find out who all of these men were. He set about tracing their identities by visiting libraries looking at old newspapers, visiting the Essex Regimental Museum, the Essex Record Office and the National Archives at Kew. He was diligent and thorough, as was very typical of the man. He found over 320 of these men, including 24 whose names were never recorded on the Memorial.

For many of the men that he researched, he typed up a page for each them with the information he had discovered about them and their lives. All of these pages are available on the Wivenhoe History Group’s community archive.

More than that, the Group were able to take the list of soldiers with the regiments or service in which they served, and their rank, and produced an especially bound book which we called the Roll of Honour, the original of which is lodged in the Royal British Legion Hall on Wivenhoe Quay in a display case. A number of copies of it were also printed and lodged in different parts of Wivenhoe including St Mary’s Church, the Council offices and the library.

Ian did a huge amount of work to compile this list over a two year period and it will be a lasting memorial to Ian. He also led many outings for us to explore places as Harwich, Landguard Fort, Maldon and several more including a guided tour of the really old parts of Colchester with local historian Patrick Denny. Ian, we will do the second part of this tour next year and hope you will be with us in spirit.

Ian of course achieved far more in his life apart from what he did to earn a living for himself and his family. He had a big interest in helping the scout movement particularly in developing the facilities at the Scout camp site known as Prances for which he raised a lot of money, and then in the later part of his life completed a biography of Miss Prances who had gifted the land at Wickham Bishops to the Scouts. He has had many other interests in his life as dinghy sailing, in bell-ringing, in choral singing, in gothic architecture where he helped to record in considerable detail all of the artefacts and things of historical interest in several churches in Essex, was a member of a team who helped to document many items at the Essex Record Office. He held, or had held, several appointments in different organisations as well as enjoying travelling.   He appeared to thoroughly enjoy life, as we enjoyed knowing Ian, if only for the later part of life. We will all miss him.

Peter Hill, Chairman, Wivenhoe History Group

About Ian Valentine’s Memorial Service on 6th November 2019

Ian’s Memorial Service was held on 6th November in a packed St Mary’s Church, Wivenhoe. Later that day, his bell-ringing friends performed a quarter peal of bells as a special tribute to Ian. Ian was clearly a special man which was evidenced by just how many people were in Church that day and representing so many organisations. In tribute to Ian, each member of the family including his grandchildren wore one of Ian’s many bow ties; his son Jeremy sang Domine Deus from Petite Messe Solennelle by Rossini; his daughter, Stephanie, sang Benedictus from Little Organ Mass by Haydn; Fenella Campa, his other daughter read a passage from the Bible, whilst Jane, his wife, read a poem called The Bellringers written by Jane Williams. His grandchildren told everybody of their memories of Ian.  It was a wonderful service.

Ian’s brother-in-law, Hugh Dent, read out this tribute to Ian entitled ‘Ian, a life’.

On behalf of all the family, and for Ian, I would like to thank all of you for coming here today, each with personal memories of Ian, the man, the friend, the colleague in many activities throughout his 85 years of life, and of course, the husband, father, grandfather.

Ian, born in 1934 was widely appreciated because he contributed so much to the many activities and interests of his eventful — and in many ways unusual — life. So now, in view of the range of ages here, I should recall first that he is of that generation which, as children lived through the anxiety, hardships and disruptions of the War, entering adult life under the cloud of the grey post-war years and of the nuclear threat.

Ian was a lifelong traveller abroad, and was also always active in many ways in the communities where he lived, before, and after retirement.

His early career and family life were marked by upheavals, insurrections and a degree of danger in the aftermath of decolonisation

Growing up in Hayes, Kent, he went to Haberdashers’ Aske’s grammar school where he was a keen rugby player. Then came the statutory 18 months of National Service. The army put Corporal Valentine behind a desk in a small town somewhere in rural Germany. He told me that this turned out to be a congenial if unexciting mission: his modest contribution to keeping the Soviets at bay lay in using his German to read miscellaneous paperwork. He obtained a bicycle and would spend weekends exploring the countryside, sometimes hiking — he and Jane were always big walkers.

During this time his father was seconded from Thomas Cook to Wagons-Lits Cook in Paris where Ian spent leave and later vacations.  With this background he visited much of Europe as a boy and young man, rather unusual for those days.

In 1954 he went up to Corpus Christi College at Oxford to read Modern Languages — German and French.  He played rugby for his college and took up rowing for the College Eight.  He met my sister Jane during their last term at Oxford …… at the Corpus Scottish dance club.

Ian, this stranger from somewhere in the South of England arrived in my life in Yorkshire when I was nine: a wedding was in the air for the following year – as it turned out in a marquee in our back garden the morning after a torrential storm. Ian was good fun: he taught me how to make my electric trains go faster around the attic. During the reception in that tent, he lent me his top hat which I wore, dodging behind the wedding cake to pick chunks of icing.  Later when I had finished all the dregs of Champagne and was unsteady beneath that hat, he came to my defence.

After university he joined the Dunlop Rubber Company.  As an overseas sales trainee he was required to spend several  months at Fort Dunlop at Solihull learning about tyres before being posted to Dar-es-Salaam in then Tanganyika which prompted him and Jane to get married two weeks before leaving for their first three-year tour.  In Dar they bought a dinghy and Jane taught him to sail. Ian was sent on a second posting to Dar where Jeremy was born shortly before Ian was posted back to the UK: next came a posting to Djakarta in Indonesia.  Ian and Jane joined the local dramatic society where Ian found himself on the stage for the first time in a production of Peter Ustinov’s Romanov and Juliet.  Scottish dancing featured again since a new Scottish friend living in an old Standard Bank property had got a dance class going.

Conditions soon became difficult with Sukarno in power and opposing the formation of Malaysia which was supported by Britain. Amid the ensuing tension, British staff were suddenly evicted from their offices and sent home without transport. For three anxious days no-one knew what was happening since there were no domestic telephones and no radio.

Then, at twenty minutes’ notice, all were told to leave their homes with a single suitcase for each family.

The Valentines found overnight sanctuary with some American friends, women and children being evacuated by the RAF to Singapore the next day.  Jane, with Jeremy then aged 20 months, was seven months’ pregnant with Stephanie. Ian, with the other men, followed the next day.

Back in England with nowhere to go, Ian again had to find rented accommodation.  Three months later he returned alone to Djakarta where he became more involved in drama, grew a beard which turned out orange and had an exciting visit to Bali, long before the days of mass tourism.  After six months Ian was joined by Jane and the children but the situation was still dangerously unstable so he saw them moved to the safety of Hong Kong until the company allowed him to leave his post three weeks later.

Back in England, so as to have a base for leave and in case of any more dramatic displacement, Ian and Jane bought a house near Petersfield.

His next posting was to Nigeria to Ikeja, up the road from Lagos, this was after the first few months in Port Harcourt, a steamy town on the Niger delta where enthusiastic Scottish dancing took place in a hall without air conditioning. Lemonade by the pint kept them going.  Ian did a lot of sailing in Lagos.

Fenella was born in 1966 during the first leave from Nigeria. When the Valentines returned to the country, post-decolonisation turbulence again disrupted life for Ian and the family. The Biafran war was under way in the East of the country.  When the Biafran army had advanced to within about two days’ march of Ikeja, Ian obtained tickets for Jane with two small children and a baby to leave at two days’ notice for a home that was empty. Again Ian had to stay at his post, joining the family three months later, just before Christmas.

Ian soon decided to leave Dunlop and joined a company in Market Harborough manufacturing fittings for shipping containers. Within a year at the beginning of the recession in the early seventies, and during the longest postal strike ever experienced, Ian was made redundant. Having delivered a hundred job applications — by hand around the country –, he was employed by Westinghouse brakes in Bristol, so the family bought a house at Chipping Sodbury only for Ian to be made redundant again nine months later.  Then a call came from his old boss in Nigeria, now the managing director of the Rochford company Magnolia Mouldings which manufactured picture-frame mouldings and later dealt in framers’ equipment. Ian became sales director travelling around the world and becoming President for 10 years of the European Moulding Manufacturers’ Association.

Ian and family moved to Witham in 1972, later to Goldhanger for 18 years and then to Wivenhoe 10 years ago.

Ian had always been keen on choral singing: he and Jane had belonged to a choir in Djakarta. Ian joined the choral society and the church choir in Witham, and went on to become deeply involved in drama with Kelvedon Players some of whom are here to-day – his favourite role being “The Tin Man” in “The Wizard of Oz”. He also joined the sailing club, taking turns behind the bar.

He was a member of Witham Round Table, now “The what was the forty one club”, meeting monthly for dinner, and he has also been a keen participant  in Haberdashers Askes’ various old boys’ activities.

Ian had always had an interest in local and family history and was enthusiastic when Wivenhoe History Group was formed a few years ago.  He immediately became involved, was the first secretary and did a huge amount of research into all those named on the village war memorial or mentioned in local newspapers during World War I which led to the Group compiling an impressive Roll of Honour.

As a member of the National Association of Decorative and Fine Arts, now The Colchester Arts Society, Ian worked on a national project to index everything in a church including woodwork, stained glass, memorials and various objects.  This connected with his long-established interest in Gothic architecture.

Here, we must remember the bell-ringer. Ian, at the age of 68 took up bell-ringing in Goldhanger.  He maintained this complex activity requiring skill and concentration until about nine months ago, ringing for notable events, as the Queen’s jubilee, as well as weddings and funerals.

When the previously defunct team of ringers was re-started in Goldhanger he decided to join, giving up Chelmsford Choral Society owing to increasing deafness. He began writing in the parish magazine to encourage new ringers and continued with this in the Wivenhoe News since numbers were low: the team now has a healthy complement of ringers.

Ian, who left his mark wherever he lived from Africa to Wivenhoe in the form of perfectionist DIY work, was meticulous in everything he undertook such as the discipline of ringing, from speeding up my trains to driving like a rally champion along the local lanes of Essex.

Some years ago he decided to investigate Jane’s side of the family, the Dents. The research took him into libraries and records all over the country. We have to move the furniture to spread the resulting family tree on the carpet.

Among his discoveries was evidence that despite our lifelong attachment to Yorkshire, the Dents, with a great grandmother from Scotland, almost certainly originate from …… Lancashire!  Only months before his death, he joined the U3A, signing up for a group speaking German “just to keep me fluent, I’m selecting news analysis for discussion,” he told me – again reading papers in German from behind his desk.

Hence the many people here now, for Ian was an example of how citizens contribute and make local life work in the parishes and counties of the UK.

Ian, you did tend to forget things when you travelled: pullovers in shops and hotels, the credit cards which fell from your shirt pockets. When I last saw you in June, while leaving you at your hotel in Toulouse, and I said “Ian, make sure you haven’t forgotten anything”. “How could I?” you replied with your mischievous smile.

On returning home, I find in your room the walking poles you had put aside. For only three months ago, you went off with a group to Krakow for 5 days.

So now, Ian, comes the time for us all, Jane, children, grandchildren, me my other sister Anne, all these friends to say adieu, for the … last … bell …has … tolled except for memories such as these.

Thank you.


Hugh Dent
6th November 2019


This page was added on 06/12/2019.

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