A little over twenty years ago a young couple came to see me to ask if they could rent the Manor Farm House in Wherwell. I was anxious to let it to someone who would take part in the village life, and had already turned down several applicants because I did not feel they had the right qualifications or outlook. When I talked to Tom and Barbara Hutton I knew instinctively that I had at last found the ideal people, and how right I was! Every year Tom used to bully me into writing an article for the "Anthology" of the Sports Day on Wherwell Playing Fields, and sadly this year I have to write it about him. Tom died on February 22nd after the most courageous fantastically brave battle against cancer. His courage was quite phenomenal, and he faced up to no less than seven major operations in three years, but alas it was the one battle he did not win.
Thomas Young Ridley-Hutton was born in 1934 in the Yorkshire Dales which he always loved. Unfortunately he was orphaned at the age of six and spent some years with relations on farms in Dumfriesshire. However, he returned to Yorkshire and then completed his education at University. He then joined the Parachute Regiment where unfortunately he had a serious accident when parachuting and broke his back in three places, and also his nose. He was in hospital for six months and was told that he might never walk again and would certainly never parachute again.
Being Tom he thought differently and succeeded not only in rejoining his regiment and parachuting, but in taking up athletics again, and proving his fitness by running for his battalion in three mile and cross-country races. In case anyone needed further proof he walked from London to Newcastle and back in the month of February when the weather was at its worst.
In 1959 he married Barbara, a most happy and successful marriage, and they and their six children were a really devoted and united family.
Undefeated he then turned to business and joined the Education Department of the Encyclopaedia Brittanica, where his obvious ability quickly brought him a senior management position, controlling Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire, Berkshire, Hampshire, Dorset, the Isle of Wight and the Channel Islands, and he was also accorded the honour of being elected a member of the elite Internation Century Club. It was at this stage of his life that he and his family came to live at the Manor Farm House - a lucky day indeed for Wherwell.
His energy was quite amazing, and was not only confined to public works. I know there are several people in the village who owe him a very deep debt of gratitude for his sympathetic and quiet approach to their problems and the help he gave them, unknown to most of us.
Tom and Barbara at the Fete, Champetre 22nd July 1986 In all he did he had the devoted help of Barbara and his family. I was aware that at times Barbara felt he was taxing himself too high, but as she could not stop him she did the next best thing and gave him all the support she could, as did his children.
Now that we have lost Tom, his son Sean has stepped into his shoes, ably assisted by all the family, and the first event he helped organise was the Church Fete, which was much enjoyed by everyone, and financially very successful. I am sure that the Sports Day will be equally successful and that the Hutton family will have the support and goodwill they deserve. Tom had some further ambitious schemes for the Sports Field and a Memorial Fund is being started, which it is hoped might help to bring some of his dreams to fruition, and preserve his memory for future generations.
Wherwell Anthology XIV - First published August 1987
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