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Beccles Townlands Charity

A Tribute To Monty Pitkin
On his retirement from Beccles Townlands Charity

During the course of 2018 Monty Pitkin reluctantly made the decision to retire from Beccles Townlands Charity (The Feoffees) after a service of 41 years. Having lived with an artificial leg since the age of 29, his mobility was now much restricted and he felt it was time to leave.

“I always felt it an honour to serve as a Feoffee and feel great pride in what we, as an organisation, have been able to achieve over the years.”

From 1977 to 2018 Monty had been an invaluable member of the Committee, with his wide knowledge of Beccles town and its inhabitants being his greatest asset. During his period of service Monty saw the Charity develop from one providing basic and limited support to its current position of being able to help fund major projects that are of benefit to the town and its people. Looking back, he saw the sale of a large plot of land, bequeathed to the Feoffees many years before, as a turning point. The land was sold to a local builder who went on to develop the housing estate known as Townlands. The money raised from this sale has enabled the Feoffees to help fund major projects in the town such as the Public Hall, Beccles Lido, the new Sea Cadet building and many more such projects, as well as helping a large number of people in need.

Montegu David Pitkin was born in 1933 the youngest of three sons. His father had moved to Beccles after World War 1 and set up in business. He opened a General Store in Northgate but after a number of years decided to change direction and produce and sell ice cream. Those of us of a certain generation will remember Mr Pitkin’s ice cream parlour at 34 Northgate, where one could purchase ice cream from a selection of eight varieties including peach, crème de menthe and maple and walnut as well as Knickerbocker Glories, Banana Splits and ice cream sodas.

Monty left school at 15 and for a while assisted his father in the family business before being taken on as Office Boy by Darby’s Timber Merchants, located just over the bridge at Northgate. From such humble beginnings he rose through the ranks and was appointed Managing Director in 1978. He was by any measure an authority on timber and his many customers knew they could rely on his judgement as to the type of wood they needed for a particular job. Monty retired in 1992 and it was a sad day for many in Beccles when Darby’s finally closed its doors just five years later.

During his youth motorbikes were his passion and in 1953 at the age of twenty Monty travelled on his motorbike to watch the Isle of Mann TT. This became a regular event with a group of friends visiting other such race meetings throughout Europe. However, in September 1962 he was involved in an accident in Norfolk resulting in the loss of a leg. He spent seven weeks in hospital and after only two and a half months’ recuperation he was back at work on crutches. Not much has deterred Monty over the years from living a normal life, evidence of his enormous strength of character and determination.

During his working life, Monty became active in other aspects of Beccles life. In 1979 he was elected onto the Beccles Town Council, initially serving as a Conservative and later representing Common Ward as a member of United Beccles. He served two periods as Mayor, in 1991 and 2001, and retired from the Council in 2004 after 25 years. In 1967 he joined the Regatta Committee and eventually served as Vice Chairman and Chairman. He is an Honorary Life Member of Waveney Stardust, and, together with another crew member, went to Buckingham Palace to represent Waveney Stardust when it received the Queen’s Commendation for Volunteering; he also served on Ringsfield Hall Trust, was a Trustee of the 5th Beccles Scouts and was Church Warden in Gillingham over many years. He has met the Queen, Prince Philip and Princess Ann on two occasions – when she opened the Citizen’s Advice Bureau and the refurbished Blyburgate Hall. Finally, another great honour was bestowed on Monty by the Royal Humane Society for ‘his praiseworthy action’. Late one evening while outside at his waterside property he became aware of someone in the river and launched his dingy to investigate. He found a man had fallen into the river and was able to keep him from drowning until further help arrived. Monty, despite his physical handicap, has indeed been a Man of Action during his 85 years and is now well deserving of a somewhat more tranquil life at his riverside home.

 

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