Foxearth History Society – Report on meeting on 16th November 2019

It is rare these days to have an event in Foxearth Village Hall at which the audience exceeds the number of seats available but such was the case on Saturday 16th November when the Foxearth and District Local History Society put on a “special” which attracted around 70 members and guests.

In an interview format Society President Ashley Cooper took the Michael Parkinson role and Baron Andrew Phillips of Sudbury occupied the hot seat – or bar stool (a little precariously). Ashley had clearly researched his subject very carefully and the result was a finely structured and wonderfully entertaining conversation. The pair took us through Lord Phillips’ earliest memories as a small boy during the latter days of World War Two to his presence in the House of Lords where he was able to influence many political decisions, his broadcasting periods and his numerous charitable ventures.

Public service and a deeply held sense of social responsibilty were cornerstones of Andrew’s family with his solicitor father undertaking  a large proportion of pro bono cases and never turning his back on someone in need of advice. The mischevious side of young Andrew’s character was shown in several anecdotes involving him crawling under the wire to gather parachutes of Sudbury silk (used to suspend metal strips which interfered with enemy radar) The lads had great fun with the chutes and lead soldiers. For some unexplained reason the girls seemed to be quite pleased with this silk bonus! Torn trousers resulting from sliding in the sand pits were an every day hazard. At the end of the war the Belle Vue area children decided to form a marching band and although he could not play an instrument, despite having a maternal grandfather who wrote songs for Harry Lauder, Andrew led from the front with a biscuit tin and two sticks. To commemorate this event Ashley had commissioned local artist Ben Perkins to depict the scene and a slide of his wonderful  painting was shown and hugely admired. All of these episodes were recounted by Andrew with humour and with the occasional expert lapse into the vernacular. After a spell at boarding school Andrew experienced farm work for a while recalling the late harvest of 1958 and bringing a Suffolk Punch out of retirement. Lessons in management and how to communicate daily orders were absorbed at this time. Before going to Cambridge to read law and economics Andrew worked in his father’s law firm of Bates, Wells and Braithwaite where there seemed to be never a dull moment! An unusual method of summoning a secretary with a pistol shot – which did have trivial but bloody consquences – and locking a difficult member of staff in the walk-in safe were just a couple of examples lightening  the daily routine. As a young graduate Andrew campaigned and won against the local authority that wanted to pull down the Sudbury Corn Exchange (now the public library) and replace it with a supermarket  -  and this zest for supporting worthy causes has continued to great effect. Establishing a law firm in London – with the same name but unconnected to his father’s -Andrew built this up to be one of the largest in the City. His keen interest in – indeed passion for – righting what he considered to be wrong developed to include obtaining charitable status for the Fairtrade Foundation, advising the Church of England on ethical investment matters and a whole host of others. He felt that his greatest achievement as a member of the House of Lords, where he was a regular speaker on social responsibility, was leading some of his colleagues into effectively defeating the Government on the identity card Bill which would have required the disclosure of a mass of personal information.

A foray into television occurred in 1976 when Andrew appeared for 6 years in the Jimmy Young show as the “legal eagle” law advisor to viewers and when this show ended he did current affairs for London Weekend for 30 episodes. Now – at the age of 80 – Andrew can proudly look back on a lifetime of achievement in which he has demonstrated his belief that man is intrinsically wondrous and only a nudge of encouragement in needed to bring out the best in him.

As the long applause by a very appreciative audience at the end indicated this was a fabulous evening’s entertainment which included many related slides of Sudbury. Clare thanked Ashley and Andrew for putting on a memorable performance and Mally and Phil for running the bar. Ashley complimented Clare and Lynda for their running of the Society and thanked Churchwarden Mally Graham for his most appropriate  display of individual crosses at the Village sign for Remembrance Sunday,

 

Ken Nice

 

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