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Pirton, History

Frank Hibbert’s Lamp

Article Published in the St Mary's Pirton Magazine.  Included with the kind permission of the Editor, Derek Jarrett.

In 2001 the Late Ted Turner wrote about Frank’s Lamp

Betty and I first came to Pirton some thirty years ago, and apart from a short break of some four years we have lived here ever since.

We kept the ‘other’ village shop on the corner of West Lane and High Street [it closed quite a few years ago] and right from the start we were struck by the friendliness of the Pirton residents generally. We had rather expected to be kept at ‘arms length’ until we had lived here for about ten years, but that was not so.

Pirton was still very rural in those days. There were seasons for pea picking for example, when nomadic gypsies would descend from wherever and camp under tarpaulin sheets up Wood Lane. When they had been paid, they would come into our shop to buy provisions [Guinness mostly].

Being a country area, Pirton was not blessed with very much in the way of street illumination in those days. However when the New Estate was built (Cromwell Way and Bunyan Close] a little more was done in the way of lighting. But there remained one particularly dark area. This was at a point where the path from Cromwell Way leads into Bunyan Close.

A few years ago another couple moved into Pirton from the North of England and settled in Bunyan Close a little further down from us. They were not exactly in the first flush of youth; they were in fact pensioners who had moved to Pirton to spend their retirement years.

I’m sure they found friendly faces much as we did when we came. I know they became involved in the Methodist Church and they made many friends as a result. Their names – Irene and Frank Hibbert.

Frank and I used to chat sometimes when we met going for the ‘papers’ at the Village Shop. And one thing that Frank felt particularly strongly about was the need for at least one extra street lamp in Bunyan Close. In fact one day he stood with me at the junction of the path and the Close and said:

“Look this is where we want a lamp, right here so it illuminates the road and shines up the footpath”.

So, Frank decided to get up a petition and canvas the residents, particularly those living in and around what is still jokingly called ‘the new estate’. I know he collected quite a few signatures and I assume he presented the results of his efforts to the Parish Council. Anyway the weeks and months went by and nothing happened.

Then, unfortunately, Frank became ill. I’m not sure of the details but I think he had a series of mild [or maybe not so mild] strokes, one of which robbed him of most of his sight.

One day as I was returning from the shop, he and Irene were approaching me along Bunyan Close and he hailed me from some distance away:

“Hello Ted, been for the papers then”?

“How did you know it was me”? I asked, “I thought you couldn’t see”.

“I can see you from a distance, it’s only when you get close that I can’t see you”.

So it was that poor Frank deteriorated over the weeks that followed and obviously relied completely on his wife Irene, who had the unenviable task of providing her husband with 24 hour a day care. But I never heard her complain once.

Frank was eventually taken into the “Lister Hospital” where he went into a coma and never regained consciousness. He passed peacefully away on 16 February 2001. I’m sure all his friends, old and new, especially in the Methodist Church and the “Over 60s Club”, sadly miss him.

A few months after Frank had indicated to me where a new lamp should be sited, [sometime in early May I think it was]; his efforts began to pay off. A gang of men and a truck with a street lamp on it arrived in Bunyan Close. They proceeded to plant it in the ground on the exact spot that Frank had mentioned to me just a few months before. And there it stood in all its glory, just waiting to be connected.

Today, 17 May 2001, contractors arrived to connect the lamp to the electricity supply. It almost seemed like Divine Intervention, but it’s sad to reflect that Frank did not survive to see the results of his efforts. However, it would be nice to think that henceforth the lamp may be known as ‘Frank’s Lamp’.

If you have any items which could be added please get in touch or send them to jontywild@pirton.org.uk.

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