Local Faces: John & Elizabeth Shaw

  |  Published: Apr 1st 2009
John & Elizabeth Shaw

It was 10 years ago this month when they were house-hunting that John and Elizabeth first visited Wendover. They liked what they saw of the village, found a house that suited them and moved here later that year with their daughters Katy and Helen. It wasn’t an area that they knew much about, but they have never regretted discovering what they describe as “a beautiful and friendly village“.

John and Elizabeth met in September 1974 when they joined the Post Office as graduate trainees and within four weeks John had proposed. After marrying in April 1975, they settled in Haywards Heath in Sussex with John based in Brighton and Elizabeth commuting to Postal HQ in London. John qualified as an accountant and subsequent promotion to the Audit department in Chesterfield in 1983 was followed by a move to the Manchester area in 1987.

For Elizabeth, this was just another move. As the daughter of a Methodist minister, she had been used to moving, though mostly within the North East where her family roots are. For John Manchester was home territory . Born in Trafford, almost in earshot of the Manchester United ground, he follows a family tradition in being a loyal supporter and, along with their daughter Katy, was lucky enough to acquire a season ticket just as their beloved team began to win the Premiership with monotonous regularity. With cricket at the other Old Trafford and rugby at Sale and Salford, what more could a sports fan want?

However, in 1995 the Post Office decided John should work in London and after 4 years of commuting at weekends, while their daughters reached exam stages at school, their move to Wendover came about in August 1999. On their first Sunday here, they were made very welcome when they joined the Free Church for worship and they soon became involved in activities there. They were particularly impressed by the fact that the Free Church had been invited to share premises with St. Anne’s Catholic Church and that, with St. Mary’s, all three churches in the village work closely together. John has also retained his Methodist links and is a Local Preacher and takes occasional services in Wendover, as well as in the Aylesbury Vale Methodist “circuit”.

As John is still working full-time, he may not be such a familiar face around the village except to those who support the village quiz - although he freely acknowledges that it‘s Elizabeth who is the star performer on the Free Church quiz team. Through her involvement with the village Christian Aid committee, Elizabeth is known to some as ‘the manure lady’ as she sells horse manure to raise funds.

This fits in well with her enthusiasm for recycling, which extends to encouraging others to recycle too, as her friends will tell you. Being against waste in any form, she wishes more people would adopt the slogan “live simply, that others may simply live”.

In all the places they have lived Elizabeth has been involved in voluntary work in the community and in Wendover she is well known to many of the older people in the village in her role as Lunch Club co-ordinator, helping to provide a meal and an opportunity for friendship and company in Wendover Christian Centre once a fortnight. She has become an expert in mass catering and those who come along seem to enjoy what is on offer if the empty plates are anything to go by. As you can imagine, her catering skills are also often called into service by the Free Church, who seem to be a congregation where food is an important part of fellowship.

In 2002, after 27 years in Post Office management, John was fortunate enough to be able to take early retirement, just as Oxfam were looking for an experienced finance professional to take on the role of International Finance Director. This involved some amazing trips to not-your-average-destination places to see the incredible work that Oxfam’s staff and partners carry out around the world in their quest to overcome poverty and suffering. John has often been humbled by the generosity of those who have virtually nothing and particularly remembers his first trip with Oxfam, to Honduras. He visited a small village where Oxfam had recently helped install a supply of running water and the lunch of chicken with fresh vegetables and fruit must have been a real sacrifice for the family that entertained him. He has also been shocked by his experience of “man‘s inhumanity to man” in places like Angola and Zimbabwe, where conflict and greed mean that a few prosper at the expense of ordinary people, who suffer as natural resources are wasted. John says that his experience with Oxfam has made him realise how fortunate we all are in this country, particularly in places like Wendover, even though we often take what we have for granted. In 2005 John was appointed as overall Finance Director of Oxfam and he has greatly enjoyed his time there and the opportunity to apply the experience he gained with the Post Office in a different and more rewarding context. John is looking to step down from full-time work later this year and who knows what possibilities will open up.

Even after nearly ten years here, their house on Cobblers Hill still feels a bit like a holiday home, so choosing a holiday destination can be difficult. As part of their attempt at a greenish lifestyle, they have found that train travel offers some interesting choices with last year a trip to Morocco, including riding on the Marrakech express, and for John, a trip from Warsaw to Moscow (yes, you’ve guessed it - to watch football!). However, they always enjoy the journey back on the Chiltern line and whatever else the future holds, one thing is for certain, John and Elizabeth are not planning on leaving Wendover yet . . . . .

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