Tribute: Tony Seabrook

  |  Published: Aug 1st 2008
tony seabrook

Tony was the eldest of three children, born and brought up with his sisters Rosemary and Ann in the countryside near Bishops Stortford. He won a scholarship to Cranleigh, where he acted in school plays produced by Michael Redgrave (who was then a teacher). Highly academic, he decided he should write the answers to his French Higher Certificate exam in French rather than English - to the horror of his French master; needless to say he passed. He played cricket and tennis and went on cycling tours. He won an open scholarship to Oriel College, Oxford to read Law in 1938 but after one year he left to volunteer at the outbreak of war in 1939.

Following officer training in Scotland he joined the Cheshire Regiment as Machine Gun Officer and was initially posted to anti-aircraft installations on the east cost. He was transferred to the Middle East, where he served in Cyprus, Syria, Palestine and Egypt. He was part of the Eighth Army (a Desert Rat) and fought at Tobruk and El Alamein; at one time he was stranded behind enemy lines and was listed as missing in action. He rarely talked about his experiences, but did occasionally recall the problems of living in the desert on two pints of water a day for cooking, washing and shaving. He also sat on and represented servicemen on, military tribunals. In Sicily in 1943 he was recruited into the Special Operations Executive (SOE) and trained as a "secret agent"; training included sabotage, train-driving, parachuting (which he hated), silent killing, and living off the land. He was then posted to India in Force 136 where he organised with the RAF the dropping of supplies to resistance groups in Burma, His final rank was captain.

Tony returned to Oriel College in 1945 for a final year (to complete a war degree) in which he read Politics, History and Economics - with a strong preference for the politics, and became President of the Oxford University Liberal Club. He was in lodgings with John Long, who introduced him to his sister, Margaret. ..He met her again at a summer camp (weeding and harvesting - or at least that is the official story); he never really admitted whether it was her looks or her cooking skills that conquered him, but she was the key element of the rest of his life. Tony and Margaret were married in December 1948, and in the following August, Tony qualified as a solicitor. In the 1951 General Election he stood as Liberal candidate for North Paddington, coming third of five candidates. His enthusiasm for the Liberal cause continued to the end f his life and he canvassed locally at every local and national election until well into his eighties.

Tony worked in London, Swadlincote and Northampton before moving to Wendover in 1954 and taking over the Aylesbury firm of leather and Stevenson, where he remained until his retirement in 1991. He sat as a Deputy Registrar in the Aylesbury County Courts and other local County Courts. He and Margaret had four children; Philip, Jonathan, Mary and Alexandra. He was active in Wendover, working with the Scouts for over 50years; a founder member of The Wendover Society where he served as a committee member and later Vice chairman, and on retirement was made a Vice President; a Trustee of the Wendover Community Trust; and a regular supporter of the Cricket Club where his two sons played. His other interests were wide-ranging; Bucks Archaeological Society, Bucks Wildlife Trust, great love of maps (hence orienteering) and, almost obsessively, ley-lines, reading (poetry, biographies, The Times). He was very devout with a strong preference for the traditional forms and was a churchwarden at St. Mary's he enjoyed travelling but equally being at home and with his family and recent years he took great delight in playing with his granddaughter, Hannah.

Characterised by a keen intelligence allied to a sense of fun, Tony loved to surprise an audience with unexpected humour - even after 50 years Margaret was not always sure when he was joking, so what hope did others have? But it was never malicious - a witty remark and not a wounding one. It is little surprise that he was well liked and respected both professionally and personally. Affected by Parkinson's Disease in his later years, he retained his sense of fun and never complained although he must have been deeply frustrated at his increasing immobility.

Always a gentle man, and ever the gentleman.

 

Tribute Prose - Remembering Tony Seabrook

TONY was a tall and slim figure, slightly stooping, serious, a little hesitant (but only because he was no doubt thinking things through!). And with undoubted authority - If you didn't know, you probably would think he was a solicitor!

He made THREE MAIN CONTRIBUTIONS to Wendover
. His passion for cricket
. Commitment to Wendover Scouts - Chairman 1971-1987 then - Group President 1987-2000, and
. His strong support for The Wendover Society.

From The Society's outset he was a founding member, and a long standing member of the committee, becoming Vice-Chairman after Frank Goodson, & its representative on the Wendover Community Trust following Sir Thomas Barlow. He was later made an Honorary Member and Vice-President of The Society.

HIS CONTRIBUTION TO WENDOVER WAS thus CHARACTERISED BY his (a) his long-standing services, (b) providing valuable legal opinion and advice to groups he joined, His legal help to Wendover Society committee was particularly valuable. He always had a reliable and sound view on any matter, whether planning or anything else. And, (c) as the representative on Wendover Community Trust - he clearly valued the opportunity to discuss and approve projects in support of young people of Wendover

Was there a DEFINING MOMENT? Yes there certainly was. Tony was a key man at the time of the Castle Park Planning Application in the 1980s. This application proposed a large development that would cover the land up to the canal. The Society was concerned about the impact on the character of the village, and objected strongly but seemingly with little success. When the application was actually approved in the planning sub-committee, events took a dramatic turn.

Through Tony, the Society had consulted a leading planning barrister, who pointed out that the application was not legally binding until ratified by the main committee. The Society decided to act, and with literally only moments to spare before the main committee met, Tony served an injunction on behalf of the Society, preventing the council from approving the application - and also from even talking about it! This was a moment of high drama. It caused a great deal of consternation, and placed individual committee members in a firing line where they were duly shot at! Headlines in the Bucks Herald are a sharp reminder of those exciting times.

It took a good deal of nerve to do all he did, and Tony showed fortitude and strength of character that was much appreciated and admired at the time . and still remembered!

This Injuction Episode was then followed by a Public Enquiry at which another leading planning barrister was retained. Tony was vital in helping to steer the correct course through this activity. The final outcome is a great benefit to Wendover in that the Green Belt line was actually defined, and housing was limited to the line of a stream away from the canal. Tony was on the front line in this defining moment in the history of Wendover.

HIS STYLE?

He was quiet, confident, authoritative, sensible - always 'doing the right thing' He never raised his voice, and never lost his temper. He was careful in choice of words. He never rushed. He was always supportive and reassuring

HOW DOES ONE REMEMBER TONY?

For me, it was his quizzical look, wry grin, glint in the eye, sideways glance - you had the feeling that nothing escaped his attention. He was a committed supporter and key contributor to the life and character of Wendover. A good "WENDOVER MAN".

Gordon Cumming
(Past Hon Sec. The Wendover Society)
given as Euology at the Funeral Service for Tony Seabrook at St Mary's Church Wendover. 25th June 2008

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