Tributes paid to 'a real gentleman' of Sidmouth
- Credit: Margaret Taylor
Members of Sidmouth Amateur Dramatic Society (SADS) have paid a touching tribute to John Ankins, a life member of the society.
A spokesperson for SADS said: “We were so sad to hear that life member, John Ankins passed away peacefully at Solent Cliffs Nursing Home in Hampshire on Monday, May 31 after a relatively short period of ill health. He was 87 years old.
“John was born in Sidmouth hospital on July 7, 1933 and lived in the town all his life.
“He went to Exeter College on a day release basis and gained his apprenticeship in carpentry and painting. He did two years National Service with the RAF in the early 50s before returning home. He was a keen member of the Sidmouth Photographic Club and also participated in town carnivals. In 1960 he went on a Cook's Tour of Italy with a friend, and met his future wife, Mary. They married in 1962 and moved into Tyrrell Mead. Mary was a midwife at the hospital and daughter Margaret arrived in 1964.
“John worked as a carpenter for Perry and Webster in Sidford in the 1960s and 1970s and then in the 1970s he became a self-employed painter and decorator.
“He was quite a prolific writer of all things 'Sidmouth' such as 'Yesterday's Shops', 'Sidmouth Victoria Hospital', 'Sidmouth's Fire Service' and 'Sidmouth - the war years 1939-45'.
“In 1984, John joined the Sidmouth Amateur Dramatic Society construction team where his skills in carpentry came to the fore. His first show with us was as assistant stage manager for the pantomime 'Babes in the Wood'. He went on to ASM 12 plays and pantomimes and stage managed a further 22 with his last one being in 2005.
“The SADS construction team was a larger outfit back then and in 1989 he became Head of Construction. Not only did he help design eight sets he helped to build and construct nearly 80 sets in his time in construction and also crewed on a vast majority of them. He worked with the construction team until 2018 when his declining health stopped him from doing the job he loved. The construction team certainly missed their coffee breaks with him, putting the world to rights and his love of ginger nuts and doughnuts!
“In 1997, John joined the SADS committee and took over the post of treasurer which he held until 2009. In 2002, the Committee awarded him Life Membership of the Society in recognition of all his hard work and dedication to the society.
“The society will certainly miss this quietly spoken man who never seemed to panic about anything.
“We send our thoughts to his daughter Margaret, grandchildren Rhys and Adam and great granddaughter Dawn.”
His daughter, Margaret Taylor, said: “I am republishing one of his books ‘Sidmouth: Yesterday’s Shops.’ It will hopefully be available from late July/early August, and will be on sale at Paragon Books, in Sidmouth High Street.
“The idea for the books originated in my school history project, and as a family we continued our research, realising that the shops had not previously been covered. On retirement and the acquisition of a computer, in the 1980s, the idea of writing a book on the shops began to materialise.
“My father loved Sidmouth and I think he would be very happy that his most successful book will live on.
“I am very proud of my father, a real gentleman, who will be sadly missed.”