Tribute to Reg Hill

13-9-2007: HUNDREDS of people packed Littleham Church on Tuesday to say their last goodbyes to local campaigner Reg Hill, who died peacefully in his sleep, aged 101.

13-9-2007: HUNDREDS of people packed Littleham Church on Tuesday to say their last goodbyes to local campaigner Reg Hill, who died peacefully in his sleep, aged 101.

Friends from all over the country, including evacuees who lived with Reg and his wife 70 years ago, paid their last respects.

Reg, son of Topsham Royal Marine Samuel James Hill and Withycombe's Eva Bowerman, was born in Exton in 1906. His parents, two brothers and a sister moved from Exton when he was five years old, and were amongst the first families to move into the then new council houses in the area, the Tythe Cottages in Littleham.

He went to Littleham's Church Of England School, and famously admitted in a Journal interview last year that his most hated subject was history. "I just couldn't see the point of learning about dead people," he said.


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In a way, Reg was caught between two worlds. His father was an austere figure in the strict Victorian mould, but Reg was most definitely a product of the new century.

After leaving school, he developed a passion for cars and drove for 63 years without ever passing a driving test, or receiving a parking ticket - a record he was proud of. As a young man he was the "fixer'" for Littleham Rangers Football Club; his task was to organise fixtures and find a football pitch each week.

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In an amusing account last year, he said: "We had no fixed ground and we had to go around cap in hand, begging farmers to let us use their fields. Have you every tried to play football on a slope? Many of the fields we used were hills and the ball just kept on rolling to one end - if it hadn't been for the molehills and cowpats.

"Sometimes we shared the fields with cows or sheep. The players had to play around them, but most of the time the animals just shuffled up to one end behind the goal lines. They added to the crowd."

He also played for Littleham Rugby Football Club and, while his forays into these sports were not overly successful, he was proud of Littleham's bagatelle team, who won a few regional trophies.

In 1933, he married Lillian but, shortly after, he had an accident and lost the sight of one eye which meant he was unable to serve in the Second World War. He always considered himself fortunate that he was too young to fight in the Great War.

He and Lillian were much involved in Littleham events and, at a fancy dress party, a near-fatal accident put Reg in hospital for five years, when his Christmas tree costume burst into flames.

His main love was for things that grew, and right up until his death he tended his beloved plants and entered flower festivals.

"I also enjoy talking to my plants," he once lamented. "But they never answer me back."

Following his recovery, he and his wife opened a snack bar, then later The Orchard Café on The Esplanade, which became a popular haunt for lifeboat crews.

He retired around 1980 and took up various local campaigns and was outspoken against dental and social services cuts and moves to demolish the village hall.

Sadly Lillian died in 1999. He reached his 100th birthday last year - a celebration that was spent in good company with 109 guests. Twelve great-great grandchildren, five grandchildren and two sons literally pushed the boat out with a celebratory cruise on the River Exe.

Reg's son Tony said: "We called it his world cruise, because everything he cared about was from Topsham to Sandy Bay. It was his world."

Reg's funeral was just two days before what would have been Lillian and his 74th wedding anniversary.

Tony added: "His wife always said he was late for everything, and he would be late for his own funeral.

"Reg always said Lillian would be waiting for him. Well, in this instance, she'd be surprised - he was two days early.

"This was nothing to be sad about - the service was a celebration of his life by people who loved him.

"And looking at how many people turned out, that was a lot of people."

TRIBUTES:

Lilian and Reg will always be fondly remembered as part of my 1950's annual holidays with my grandparents, The Thurlows, who had the Post Office - a couple of houses away - at that time. Their home was always open and welcoming. It was very nice to read such a wonderful account of his Littleham years.

Carole Thurlow

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