“Have you got a minute?”
Our village lost one of its longest serving and most tireless workers when Michael passed away on 28 May after a very short illness. He moved to Brightwell 35 years ago, since when no major activity, and only the occasional society has failed to attract his attention, or benefit from his participation and willing help.
Michael, wife Pat with Simon and Adrian, set up home in Church Lane, moving from Portsmouth when transferred for 3 years to the Reading office of Commercial Union. They arrived in time for the Queen’s Silver Jubilee, and first joined village life helping organise events raising funds for that celebration. Mike became involved with extending that to give the hard surface and tennis club. He helped set up the Community Association, becoming its third Chairman. By this time he was hooked on life here and turned down a move to his firm’s City office.
Very little escaped his attention. He liked full participation, not just attending an odd committee meeting. If it was broke then Mike would try to mend it, or find someone who could help him fix it. “Have you got a minute?” was his universal introduction, trying to draw people into an activity, or simply to a distant member in need of a chat.
Variously Mike has also been concerned with the hospital car service, indoor bowls, badminton, village website, walking and art clubs. He held a TA commission through which in times past he became village Civil Defence co-ordinator, and was the current Chairman of the British Legion. Involvement with fetes, village balls and the Millennium led him to set up Just Right Marquees. At St. Agatha’s he helped maintain fabric and churchyard, and at weekly coffee mornings.
For a while Mike was a Parish Councillor, but his major contribution was as Chairman of the Village Hall. With his committee he has given us one of the best facilities in the area, extending the buildings, enticing and shoehorning the Post Office, and now the Village Shop onto site. Even the Swan Allotments came with this function. Largely neglected 10 years ago, there are now fences, gates, water supply. and a waiting list.
Michael left as he lived, at a great pace, leaving us once again wondering what on earth he was up to.
My association with Mike (sorry, he’s always been Mike to me) goes back 20 years through the Village Hall. He was a most effective chairman of the trustees and management committee and always strove to promote maximum use of the hall by the villagers. Typically, back in 1991, he was instrumental in borrowing equipment to see if there would be any interest in forming an indoor bowls club – there was, but the bowls club needed about £1500 to buy its equipment, so Mike’s idea enabled the village hall to lend the money, interest free, to be repaid within 3 years – brilliant, the bowls club took off, repaid the loan within 2 years, and in the following 20 years must have paid nearly £30,000 pounds to the hall in rent.
Mike saw the hall, and the church of course, as the centre of our community. He was tireless in his pursuit of all possible sources of grants and donations from parish, district and county council sources to help the funding of so many projects – some of the major ones: complete floor replacement; rear extension for a function room, office and store room; new kitchen; new ladies, gents and disabled toilets; completely new ceiling and lighting; sound and visual media presentation equipment; and recently, enabling the Post office and the upcoming Village Stores on our property.
He was very much ‘hands on’ with maintenance and general DIY – Tony D brought it all back with his “have you got a minute?”, but it often came to me as “are you doing anything this morning?”. Years ago the lighting in the hall was by several large circular fluorescent ceiling mounted units – always, one would be flickering and require a change – I have very clear, and now worrying, memories of building a precarious structure with Mike of 4 tables, then 2 more atop, and finally the wooden step ladder atop that, with Mike finally up there with both hands above his head. We moved on to a marginally safer scaffolding tower, and now have a brilliant ladder – found by Mike of course, on the net.
There were times, when his enthusiasm to present ideas to us on his committee, when his brain would be just ahead of his ability to articulate, and he would finish with flapping hands and “you know, etc etc.” – we usually got it. Ken T says Mike was the only person in the village who would just drop in for coffee and a chat – he would do it to us too … “would you like a coffee?” … “oh all right then, I’ll just ring Pat to let her know”.
Michael Maughan has surely left his mark on Brightwell-cum-Sotwell. We are all the poorer for his absence.
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