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26th March 1925 - 28th February 2008

St Mary's was packed with hundreds of mourners on Wednesday afternoon (5th March) for the funeral of John Hannis. The British Legion formed a Guard of Honour for the coffin which was draped in a Union Jack. The Vicar talked about Johns dedication to the town, his family and St Mary's Church in a moving service which included a touching and affectionate address from Vera van Dort - who had come over from  Holland. She and her husband had hosted John and his good mate Sydney for many years on their annual pilgrimage to commemorative battlefield services in Leiden and Arnhem - visits which had come to have a huge significance for both men in their later years. Vera said that she had never met a nicer man than John in her whole  life. He had been hoping to go across again this year but it was not to be. He had specially asked Vera to come  to Chippy and see him a few weeks ago when he asked her to speak at his funeral "just as you did for Sydney". She told us that she had asked him then if he was afraid of dying. He had dismissed the idea. "I have had a fulfilling life with a marvellous family and wonderful friends".  Well you can't say fairer than that. Strong sunlight poured through the stained glass as the congregation tried to raise the roof with "I vow to thee my country". The Coldstream Guards prayer was read........

"Keep always alive in their hearts we beseech Thee
the traditions of their heritage, and let them ever
be second to none in their devotion to their God,
their Queen and their Country"

The colour standards were lowered and then he was gone. Taken by his family up the hill to the cemetery from where he can continue to keep a watchful eye over us all. 
God speed John. Rest in Peace.


Chippy's first Honorary Citizen

29th February:

We are very sad to report that John Hannis - former Coldstream Guardsman, last Mayor of the Chipping Norton Borough Council, and the first person to be awarded the title of Honorary Citizen of the town has died aged 83.  John was born in Chipping Norton and served the town all his life in civic, voluntary and charitable roles. He was a member of the borough, district and county councils for 44 years, serving as an independent. John also carried out considerable work for the Royal British Legion as local chairman and president, and parade marshal and organiser of the annual Poppy Appeal. He was also a church warden at St Mary's and used to play in Chipping Norton Silver Band. "I joined the band after the war playing the tuba - I was the only one big enough to carry it," he said at the ceremony to mark his Honorary Citizenship. "Although my years on the councils were very important to me, I have enjoyed all my work with the Royal British Legion and Poppy Appeal".

John has been ill for some time but up until a few short weeks ago he continued regularly to walk down Burford Road into town - stopping for a chat every few yards with his many well wishers. Last February he proudly attended the ceremony when he was installed as our first honorary citizen. He gave a reading at the Remembrance Day Service in November. He attended the launch of John Grantham's new book in December. He was active and involved until the very last days of his long and distinguished life. Our sincere sympathy goes out to his family and friends. We all feel privileged to have known him.

David Eddershaw wrote this beautiful pen portrait of John eight years ago in the Chippy News. It is worth repeating at this sad time.

If you had to think of someone who personifies old chippy John Hannis might well come to mind. Born more than 75 years ago in the room over the archway into Distons Lane, he has lived his whole life in the town except for four years in the army during the war. His father and grandfather before him were well-known Chipping Norton people, his father a tailor with a shop on Topside. Both were members of the Borough Council and both served as mayors, so that John has the distinction of being the third generation of his family to fill that office. (And there is a street named after them for that reason.)

That was in 1973-4 when after 12 years on the council, during which he always topped the poll at elections (and still holds the record at 1030 votes - 10 out of every 13 cast that year), he became the last mayor of the old Borough. The next year WODC took over and Chipping Norton, relegated to the status of a parish, lost control of most aspects of its local government. John immediately resigned and makes no secret of his dismay at this loss of power to run our own town, nor of his disdain for the recent changes to a cabinet system of government at Witney and the payment of district councillors even when they dont attend meetings. In spite of this he has become a district councillor himself and still works hard to lobby officers on behalf of Chipping Norton people. He also served as a county councillor for 14 years. How long will he go on He seems set for another four years as once again he came top of the poll with 1000 votes at the recent District Council election. (John eventually gave up his District Councillor job two years ago in 2006 when his seat came up for re-election and he decided to call it a day)

Although local government has filled so much of his life he still looks back with a nostalgic light in his eye to his first job on leaving school when he worked on Mr Webbs Elmsfield Farm. I loved those big horses he says, and remembers haymaking all day in the fields (where the smart new houses of Wilcox Road now stand) and leading the horses back to the farm at 10 oclock on a summer night, or once driving fifteen cattle all the way from Kitebrook to Chippy along the then quiet A44 road. Having learnt to drive lorries delivering animal feed all over the area for Walter Craft, John then became a bus driver, a job he kept for the rest of his working life. He enjoyed meeting people and got to know all the regular passengers on his country routes. He still meets people, parents and grandparents now, who remember him lifting them onto the school bus years ago. One particular person he met on his bus was Peggy, the young Irish conductress whom he married. Getting to know people is not only a pleasure, it has been the key to his political success. John Hannis has never felt the need to hold political surgeries for his constituents; everyone knows him and they have only to stop him on the corner of the street, in the pub, at the Legion or coming out of church and they know hell always stop and listen.

It is just a year ago that we held the ceremony when John was appointed the very first Honorary Citizen of Chippy -  in honour "of his lifetime of service to the community of Chipping Norton and the many ways he has enriched the town through his example of commitment, concern for others and good citizenship"

On a Sunday afternoon surrounded by his family, friends and representatives of the Town Council the Mayor installed John as our First Honorary Citizen. John swore an Oath of Allegiance and was then presented with a medal and a Certificate. There were affectionate speeches, poems and happy memories from everybody present - with music from the Silver Band.

John said : "I am really honoured and humbled to be awarded this title. It's wonderful."

We can be proud that Chippy has produced a man like John whose eighty years of life have been dedicated to serving his country and his town. It is an honour for us all to have known him".


Left: John Hannis pictured with John Grantham at the Honorary Citizen ceremony.
John at the Remembrance Day Service at the War memorial last November.


Thanks to Brenda Morris for this old picture of John -
at the presentation of his award for 30 years long service with
the Oxford-South Midland Bus Company



From Gina Burrows, Mayor of Chipping Norton

What an honour it was for us to have him as our first Honorary Citizen - a year ago when I said to the assembled company of friends, colleagues and family 'May I present to you John Hannis, Honorary Citizen' and everyone rose to their feet and applauded...  they were all proud of him and he was clearly (and deservedly) proud to be surrounded by so much love, respect and admiration.   John's was a lifetime of service, full of acts of kindness and understanding - but all delivered with charm and a twinkle of the eye.  We shall miss him on so many occasions, he was an essential part of the fabric of the town.

From Rev Stephen Weston, Vicar of Chipping Norton

When I first came to this town 12 years ago, I had nothing in my files on the Remembrance Day services and what to do. Someone said to me 'go and see John Hannis', so I did, and he was fantastic, and we made the arrangements over a glass of scotch. We were friends ever since. He was a quiet man, very proper and dignified, but always a gentleman. He cared so much for this town.   (Quoted from the Oxford Times Obituary)

From David Cameron, our MP

John Hannis was a well-loved and highly respected member of the community of Chipping Norton and he will be sorely missed.  His devotion to public service for the people of Chipping Norton, and the exemplary way in which he carried out his duties, will be long remembered by all.  West Oxfordshire has lost a truly outstanding man.

John and Celia Grantham
John is a Town Councillor. Previously West Oxfordshire District Councillor for Chipping Norton  and Town Mayor

We were both saddened to hear of the death of John Hannis. He was a personal friend and colleague for many years. John gave a lifetime of service to Chipping Norton and his presence everywhere will be greatly missed. Remembrance Day will never be the same and we must ensure that all the traditions he held most dear will be upheld.

From Cicely Maunder, successor to John as Chairman of the
Welfare Charities Committee 
and previously Town Mayor

I was deeply saddened to hear of John's death. I had many  dealings with John over the years - Remembrance Sundays, poppy street collecting etc. but my earliest memory is of John the bus driver. I clearly remember the day he said "now Miss Atwell you must be 14 by now and I shall have to charge you full fare" up went my fare from Salford to Chippy from twopence halfpenny to five pence! I was 16 by then. Good old John! I will miss you.

From Barry Norton, Leader, West Oxfordshire District Council

John Hannis was one of lifes great characters and a real gentleman. He was a local man who spent a large part of his life in public service, representing the people of Chipping Norton on County and District Councils with great distinction. John was very well respected by everyone who knew him and had dealings with him. He will be greatly missed and a sad loss to the whole community in Chipping Norton

From Eve Coles. Town Councillor and West Oxfordshire District Councillor for Chipping Norton

My sincere condolences to John's family.
John and I were on the WODC Environment Committee together for many years, always strongly backing each other up on Chippy matters. On our way home from Witney we would discuss local folk's problems and agree what best to do. John felt passionately about Chippy and its people. We shall miss him so very much

From Dr Bruce Parker

John Hannis was already involved in the life of the Borough when I arrived in 1958. He played a valuable part in the development of the town prior to 1974 and the formation of WODC where he did his best to fight Chipping Norton's corner. As a representative he was always approachable. He would take any problem. If it wasn't his he would find the way forward and always communicated back - a one-stop shop run by one man! On the Town Charity he was a valuable Trustee combining local knowledge with fairness and political freedom.
While John was a conservative - with a small "c" - resisting change for change's sake, he responded well to argument in fair debate and always had the best interest of all the people of Chipping Norton at heart. I knew him as a good neighbour and gardener.
His support of the Royal British Legion at Branch and County levels was only one of many interests he had, but its survival owes much to his effort, particularly the poppy collection for many years.
Sunday morning will miss his tolling of the bell and his loyal support of St Mary's Church.

From Brenda Morris

I was extremely sorry to learn of the death of John. He was a good friend to everyone and always listened attentively to any problems they may have had. He was a kind and gentle man. I have known him all my life and will miss his wise words of wisdom!

From Michael Dixon, Town Councillor

Service not Self " was what John advocated in his work with the Royal
British Legion. He would always help ex-servicemen and their dependants
in any way he could. John was Poppy Appeal Organizer for many years and worked long hours to make sure the Chipping Norton area had Poppy
Collectors going from door to door and also in Chipping Norton Town
Centre on Saturday before Remembrance Day. If it was rain or cold he was always there.  John will be sadly missed by all. He was one of Life's

From Hilary Biles, Cabinet Member, West Oxfordshire District Council and County Councillor Chipping Norton Division

When I was first elected as a West Oxfordshire District Councillor, I attended the first induction training day for new Councillors, rather nervous and hardly knowing a soul. A gentleman came over to talk to me. He asked me who I was and which Ward I represented. When I told him, he smiled and said in that lovely voice of his. I know all about you! It was of course John. He knew instinctively how to put people at ease and I have never forgotten his kindness to me. John, I think, knew everything and everyone. He was one of the longest serving members on the Council and held the respect of Officers and Members alike.

I will miss him, a man with a twinkle in his eye, a wonderful sense of humour, sensible words of advice, with a love and knowledge of Chipping Norton that was second to none. My thoughts are with you John. 
God Bless

From Maureen Shepherd, Deputy Chairman,
West Oxfordshire Conservative Association,
Chipping Norton Branch.

I was saddened to hear of the death of John Hannis. I have known him all my life. He was always pleasant and always had time to talk to you and offer advice if you had a problem. Over the years he has helped me many times. He will always live on in people's memory. In a lifetime you meet very few people who were as respected as John. God bless you John .  

From Chunky Townley, West Oxfordshire District Councillor for Chipping Norton

It was with great sadness that I learned of the death of John, the most respected and important character of 'Chippy', a view I feel sure was shared by all who knew him, and borne out when he was made an Honorary Citizen of Chipping Norton, the first person to be awarded this very special honour.
When John decided to retire from the District Council after many years of devoted service, I was invited to stand for his seat, a very difficult decision to make knowing it would be a very hard act to follow. I went to see John for his advice, and was pleased when he said you should put yourself forward, as you - like me - are born and bred 'Chippy'. Then he added, "I wish you would put up as an Independent not a Conservative". I replied "Well you are a Conservative". John smiled with that twinkle in his eyes, said nothing and just patted me on the back.
Last August I attended the funeral of Syd Scarsbrook, and sat next to John in the Church. It was obvious then that John was far from well, but he sang all of the hymns with great passion and all from memory, not needing to look at the sheet, and he did a super Eulogy of his old war veteran friend. 
John was a very good friend of my father, they both lived all their lives in 'Chippy' except when they were away on service during the war. They shared many interests, and in their retirement spent many hours in the bar of the Crown and Cushion putting the world to rights. My father used to say they don't come any better than John Hannis, not a phrase he would use lightly.
We will all miss John very much, and I doubt there will ever be another person to serve our Town so well, giving so much time and devotion.

From Michael Howes. West Oxfordshire District Councillor for Chipping Norton.  President,
West Oxfordshire Conservative Association,
Chipping Norton Branch.

When John Hannis was a fellow district councillor, he made sure that Chippy's interests were always looked out for and although he was an Independent everyone respected his point of view. When he stood at the Council meetings everyone listened to what he had to say. At all public meetings he was always a gentleman even when he disagreed with what was being proposed. He was never backward in expressing his opinion especially if he felt that the interest of Chipping Norton was not being looked after.
One of his duties was to ring the bell for Communion  at St Mary's Church. Since he has been ill, I am sure he has been sorely missed,  gently sliding into his seat at the back with no fuss or bother.
He was a member of an illustrious group of service personnel, who have died over the years  comprising Tom Stroud, Tiny  Dale ,  Bill Wells and Sydney Scarsbrook to name but a few, who were all much appreciated by the people of Chipping Norton, being part of the Team to present the Annual Remembrance Service. They brought to the parades panache and style and a presence which the shrinking members of the British Legion will continue to replicate in the years to come. John will always be remembered for the person that he was, our No 1 Citizen. One hears the story about the impact of dropping a stone into a bucket and seeing how the ripples gradually fade and disappear. John, the positive ripples you have created over the years will carry on for many a year.

From Pat Lake, Town Councillor and previously Town Mayor

With the passing of John we have lost someone who loved this town and dedicated a great deal of this life to it and the people who live and have lived here.  We will miss seeing him strolling through the town, making his observations and stopping to pass the time of day, or letting you know his latest thoughts on matters concerning the town.  We will all miss him.

From Rob Evans, Town Councillor and previously Town Mayor and County Councillor, Chipping Norton Division

John made an immense contribution to this town ably representing and fighting Chippy's corner at all three  levels of local government- - town, county and district- in a long and selfless career. I'm sure he had 'Chipping Norton' carved on his heart and he knew our needs and wishes to his fingertips. He was a real  gentleman who cared for everyone and I will treasure the encouragement he gave so unstintingly and  always with a cheerful smile and cheeky sense of humour. Remembrance Day will never be the same without his immaculate organisation, impeccable appearance and proud bowler hat. He was a lovely man who was devoted to his family and will be hugely missed by the whole town.

From Jo Graves, Town Councillor and previously
Town Mayor

To me John represented all that was good in a person - a true gentleman, in every sense of the word. A man loyal to his country, showing great warmth for his family, long service to his hometown and commitment to his church. I shall miss him.

From Don Davidson previously Town Mayor

I would like to pass on my condolences to John's family.  John was a true gentleman and a tireless champion of Chipping Norton and it was an honour to know him.  He served this town as a Town Councillor, Town Mayor and as a District Councillor for many years gaining the respect and trust of all who knew him. He will be very greatly missed.

From Keith Clandfield

How many of us can remember sitting on the bus going to and from Oxford ,and John whistling every hymn tune there is ,plus any tune he made up as well. Living at Gt Tew we had a bus twice a week to oxford John always treated every one with respect. Nothing was too much trouble. My mum loved him as did Dad . R I P John