Nigel Fox – In memoriam


It was with considerable sadness that we report the death of Nigel Fox our former chairman.

Nigel and his wife Liz retired to live in Wincanton after his career as a life-insurance agent both in England and in France. Liz was a teacher who became head of a primary school and when they moved here she with my wife served as a governor of Wincanton Primary School.After joining our committee he was chairman for seven years after Terry Stanford felt he had to resign when his wife became seriously ill. Before that Terry was Membership Secretary which meant he kept our membership list up to date checking if people had paid their subscriptions. This was not the most fun activity I often thought, but for lack of other offers from us he continued to do it even as chairman with quiet diligence and sensitivity.

Nigel certainly had the right qualities to be our chairman. Always pleasant, friendly and efficient he had a real interest in history, both of the subject in general and in local history. He also enjoyed historical fiction, telling me about the Hornblower novels and Bernard Cornwall’s Sharp series which were his favourites.

His was not an easy time to be chairman for local government, the District and County Councils were facing plans for their abolition and or amalgamation and he was diligent in attending many meetings that they called. He then reported back to us his often fruitless attempts to get the District Council or the County Council to work with us to and give us a grant towards having two rooms and display space in our town library. This was after the Quakers discovered they could not continue to support us in our long established rooms in the High Street. The problem was the councils did not quite know where they were going. Finally he saw to it that a partnership with our library was agreed.

He also gave sympathetic support to Helen Philips in her endless and successful search for interesting and inexpensive speakers to come and talk to us.

During his time we were also lucky in having a dedicated and long term curator in John Atkins. He was the first person to draw my attention to two lined pages of A4 that introduced me to the history of Alberto Bioletti and the French parole prisoners in Wincanton. This set me off to research the remarkable story of the life of an Italian who had fought in Napoleon’s army and ended up here. In Wincanton he married Mary Feltham and finally returned to live for forty-five years as a clock and thermostat maker, and founder of a substantial family. Nigel encouraged me to research Alberto further and think about writing a book and in the next two and a half years when I was writing and researching, he often asked me how I was getting on and what I had discovered. Having someone keen to listen as I poured out what I thought were my amazing discoveries I found Nigel most encouraging. Surviving Napoleon, The Clockmaker’s Tale finally came out in 2017.

Being chairman of the society is certainly a demanding role to fill and one he did so with kindness and concern for all of us. Like his predecessor however, Nigel felt he needed to retire and come off the committee for Liz became far from well. Before doing so he successfully recruited our new chairman Ian Thomas.

Sadly and surprisingly his health soon deteriorated and they both moved into Elliscombe House where he died leaving Liz far from well, but currently surrounded by their family.

John Baxter

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