Maurice George Knapman
1925 to 2005.
Whilst he lived the greater part of his life in Chipping Norton, Dad was a Devonian, something he was very proud of & in many ways he remained a Devonian all his life. Born in the village of South Zeal, on the edge of Dartmoor, his parents were farmers at a time when farming, certainly in rural Devon was very tough and sons were expected to help out on the farm from an early age. He recounted many stories of driving the cattle through the village before school or of his brother, John playing countless tricks on him, including making his horse bolt & landing in a patch of stingers - he never went on a horse again. . At the age of 11 he went to Okehampton Grammar School, where he obtained his school certificate & was school cross-country champion for a number of years - his love of exercise & the outdoors already obvious. At 16 he left to join, I think, the National Provincial Bank, working in the market town of Holsworthy on the Devon Cornwall border. Dad lived in digs during the week, cycling to & from home at the weekends - a round trip of 60 miles on a bicycle. But his days in Banking were already numbered.
With two years of the Second W odd War remaining, Dad reached 18 years of age & whilst he told me his first choice was to join the RAF, his eyesight let him down & he joined the Navy. He served on HMS London in the Pacific, but never really talked about those days, beyond the superficial. In 1945, he returned to Devon & the family, to find that two sons had left for war & two had returned. Dad never really took to the stuffiness associated with Banking in those days & asked his brother if he could find him a job working with him in Okehampton Rural District Council. He did & 50 years of working in Local Government began.
The ambition & drive, which were to form a big part of his life, soon surfaced & he realised the need to spread his wings to gain promotion. In the early 1950's he applied & was successful in getting a role with a local authority in the Black Country & he & my mother moved to Staffordshire. He thoroughly enjoyed those years, often mentioning the welcome & warmth he was shown by people in that part of the country. A few short years passed & he "cheekily", to use his word, applied for a much more senior position with Chipping Norton RDC. To his amazement, he was successful & moved with his wife to live in the Leys, a house he had built & lived in for over 40 years. The move was always destined to be a good one, because very soon after that, at only the age of 31, he got the top job running Chippy RDC. 1974 brought reorganisation of Local Government & whilst he hankered after running Cherwell District Council, he got the Witney job & became Chief Executive of West Oxfordshire District Council
1984, at nearly 60 bought retirement & the chance to slow down, well for a while at least. I can't remember how many months retirement lasted, but it was only a few short months, before the position of Town Clerk to Chipping Norton Town Council became available & another 13 years of Local Government began. Finally, at the age of 72, after 50 years, his time working in Local Government ended.
Retirement was not always the easiest of times. 15 months after retiring, he suffered a Heart attack, which he quickly recovered from & in 2001 he suffered a stroke, which with his usual determination & tenacity he battled back from. The one thing he missed above all was his days out with the Bassets enjoying the countryside. Many of you here today took the trouble to visit him on a regular basis after his stroke & knowing him, I bet he did not tell you how much that meant to him. It meant the world to him thank you. At heart, Maurice Knapman was a countryman, who loved the countryside & everything to do with it. Just a couple of weeks ago I drove him to Devon & he marvelled at the different colours of the leaves. He loved walking, whether that was on Dartmoor with me in previous years, trudging through the mud following those little dogs, or doing his daily 5-mile walks, before the stroke made that impossible. A simple man, an honest man, a very hard workingman, and a successful man who loved Chippy & was proud of what he had achieved for the town. A difficult man to get to know, but once you did, a friend for life.
So there you have it, Maurice Knapman was born on the 6th June & he died on the 6th June at 80 years of age reunited with his brother. Rest in Peace