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MAURICE HAIGH (1935-2013)

ADDED 17 NOVEMBER 2013

On the 1st November 2013 Pamela and myself received the devastating news that our very dear friend, Maurice Haigh, had passed away after a short illness. Up until this time I have not felt able to write anything about the loss of Maurice because on the very same day that his daughter broke the news to us of Maurice's death, Pam and I were informed of the tragic loss of Pam's own son Rob.  You could not envisage a worse day. Our own personal grief prevented us from attending Maurice's funeral which had been arranged for the day before our funeral for Rob. Now that Maurice and Rob have both been laid to rest I would just like to say a few words about Maurice and how his endless enthusiasm and fondness for the town of Knottingley helped me to establish the Knottingley website and in particular the Knottingley Digest magazine.

When I first started the Knottingley website more than 13 years ago, Maurice and I had never met. I was struggling to learn how to build websites and had come up with the idea of a local history site about the town of Knottingley. I had made my first tentative steps at publishing some articles about the town when quite out of the blue I received a complimentary letter through the post along with a cheque for 5. The letter and donation were from Maurice who had discovered what I had published and thought it was such a good idea that he felt keen to make a donation to help with the ongoing costs. It wasn't long before Maurice was contributing articles about his own memories of the town for publication on the website and this helped to encourage many other local people to do the same. Maurice and I soon became good friends and his enthusiasm kept me going during those times when I often questioned exactly what I was trying to achieve. I learned about Maurice's family, about his dear wife Kath whom he absolutely adored, and I discovered that we had both encountered similar tragedies in our younger lives.

Maurice became the driving force behind the Knottingley website, encouraging me to include things I hadn't previously considered. He began regular visits to Pontefract library to painstakingly search through the many hundreds of microfiche copies of the Pontefract and Castleford Express for interesting local news reports, which is how our 'Years in Focus' and 'Wartime Memories' sections originally began. Once he had exhausted all that he could, he began visiting local people and interviewing them to gain their personal memories of the town or their experiences during times of conflict. He would take notes before going home to write up the stories and then send them on to me for publication. His efforts brought a wealth of stories for inclusion on the website.

In early 2003 I mentioned to him about my ideas for a local community magazine. I remember that Maurice's thoughts weren't too favourable at the time but I decided to go ahead with the idea. I don't think Maurice actually believed that we could produce a magazine but come publication of the first very basic issue Maurice was absolutely hooked and the Digest magazine would thereafter become as much down to him as it was down to me.

The Digest magazine brought Maurice and myself into regular daily contact. Maurice began doing more and more work in an effort to obtain material that we could publish. In addition he began helping to distribute the magazines to local shops at the beginning of each month. I'm not sure how I could have ever managed without him.

In February 2005 I introduced the Pontefract Digest magazine alongside the Knottingley edition. I was still in full time employment and publishing the magazines in my spare time so Maurice's assistance was invaluable in keeping things going. It was at this time that I met Pamela and introduced her to Maurice. It was a friendship that was to last for the rest of Maurice's life. Maurice adored Pam and Pam adored Maurice. Together, the three of us continued with the publication of the two Digest magazines for more than two years, Maurice taking charge of delivering printed copies to shops and other outlets in and around Pontefract each month.

In November 2006 Maurice lost his wife Kath and he had to take a short break from the magazines. He was understandably devastated but would soon return to helping with the magazine again. I would like to think that the magazines helped him through that awful time in some way. They did give him a focus of attention at a time when it would have been difficult to think of anything else.

The need to cease publication of both Digest magazines in November 2007 was a very sad time for all of us but although the magazines were no more Maurice remained a very close friend and regularly visited us at our home in Selby. If he wasn't availing himself of some of Pam's home baking then he would be bringing along some fresh cream cakes from a local bakery for us. I'm not sure how it originally came about but Maurice is the only person ever to refer to me by the name of 'Mike' rather than the more usual 'Mick' or 'Michael' that I was accustomed to.

When Pam's mum died in 2011 we left Selby and moved to Conisbrough near Doncaster but Maurice continued to visit us. He always spoke of his family and would bring along a selection of family photographs which he was clearly very proud to share with us. He also never omitted to mention his lovely Kathleen and spoke openly about just how much he still missed her. He told us of how he would often visit the same places that he and Kath had previously visited together but how, on his own, they were never the same. Maurice always seemed to arrange his visits to us in Conisbrough at the most opportune time for him to take advantage of the fact that we would have a freshly harvested crop of home grown new potatoes or a selection of fresh peas or French beans that he could take home with him for his dinner. Rarely did he ever leave us empty handed.

Maurice last visited us just five weeks prior to his death. His earlier visits had witnessed my ongoing efforts to build a Koi pond in the back garden and on this final occasion I had finally managed to get my fish installed and he spent a good deal of time viewing and asking many questions. He always took a genuine interest in everything we had done or were doing at the time. Me and Pam would often joke about the need for us to be able to show some progress had been made since his previous visit.

When Maurice's daughter phoned on the morning of 1st November to confirm his death, Pam took the call and was in floods of tears at the news. Little did we know at that time just what else we would have to endure on that very dark November day. We are so sorry not to have been able to be there for his funeral but the added pain of our own loss was simply too great to endure two funerals for two very special people within the space of 24 hours.

Maurice will forever be in our thoughts and I would like to dedicate the Knottingley website to his memory. We will never forget you Maurice.


'Mike' & Pamela

17 November 2013

 


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