As if 2020 has not heralded enough bad news, it is with much sadness that we mourn the loss of yet another stalwart, Club President, Tony Huckle who lost his battle with liver cancer on Saturday night.
Tony reached his 87th birthday on 1st August this year. Where does one start when talking about “H”?
Tony had fulfilled the role of Club President for over 20 years, throughout which time he has operated as an Ambassador of the Club, proudly donning his club tie and welcoming any opposition dignitary who might be in need of Tony’s special brand of hospitality. Ever willing to help the Club out and always happy to pledge his support to fundraising efforts, Tony was for some years one of the central figures in securing advertisers and together with Terry Barratt the driving force behind our Car Boot sales. For some thirty years Tony and I have been sharing match day drinks, much of that time with Alan Sexton, whose loss some ten years ago, Tony had never really gotten over.
As a mark of respect John Ross and myself had a socially distanced but very chilly meeting at King George V yesterday to recall fondly just a few of the foibles of the self-proclaimed Viscount of Walsworth. Some of which we share now.
Tony, it must be remembered, was a successful businessman, running as he did the Walsworth Crossroads grocers/green grocers/butchers/off licence/haberdashers/chemists etc etc. for thirty years. This premises can rightly lay claim to being the first supermarket in Hitchin, now trading as a chiropractic clinic and being a far cry from the days when fresh vegetables were set out on trestles in front of the shop. Tony supplied food and pretty much anything else to the residents of Walsworth in the 60s, 70s and 80s, opening at 6.00am and closing around 7.00pm. More Arkwright than Ronnie Barker, minus the stutter of course, and yes, he did have a delivery boy riding one of those bikes with a basket at the front.
People often refer to the breaking of the mould when someone dies – well never has there been a better case in point than Tony – he was truly a one off. In his pomp he was an exceptional sportsman, excelling at hockey where he was captain at Letchworth for some years. A member of Hitchin Nomads, Tony was also a top cyclist, peddling around the four corners of the UK. It would not be unusual for him to cycle to North Wales and back over the course of a long weekend. Indeed, John, recalled the tale of the said Mr Huckle, who, having returned from an overnight road race up in Leicester, discovered that he had left his toothbrush in the hotel room. The following day he rode up the A1 and recovered both the missing brush and his half squeezed tube of paste.
That anecdote might wrongly be construed to suggest that Tony was a bit tight – far from it. He was always first “in the chair” at the bar and more often than not, last as well. Generous to a tee, but equally, always swift to remind anyone in the round, when it was their shout.
That leads me onto another topic inextricably associated with Tony – alcohol. Whichever way you want to look at it Tony was the Lewis Hamilton of the drinking classes. The man was a legend not just in his own lunchtime but breakfast and dinner as well. I have never met anyone with the same drinking capacity or ability to dispose of 20 fluid ounces with such disdain. Blink twice and the pint had gone – no trace.
John reminded me of one of Tony’s party pieces with new bar staff. As the Club official responsible for hospitality Tony would meet and greet visitors. Drinks would be ordered and Tony’s pint would be first on the bar. As the server turned to pour the next drink Tony would down his pint in one and ask where his pint was? Needless to say he would always own up and pay, but talk about demolishing a pint! Same with half a yard and yard of ale glasses – he still holds the record at many Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire pubs and probably will do forever.
Sadly, over the last three or four years he has finally been showing his age – but even so, until lockdown he had continued to skipper the Canaries dominoes team and play cribbage at the Half Moon. Tony has been Hitchin and District champion for both crib and doms and would have politely refused an invitation to the Palace for dinner with HRH if it meant letting down his cribbage or dominoes team.
Whilst Tony will be remembered on occasion for having a somewhat colourful life, a side of him that was less well appreciated was his love of the countryside, He would often wax lyrical about the colours of autumn leaves, wild flowers, red kites overhead and approaching storm clouds. A sign I am sure of his childhood spent in the village of Newnham and the source of his most used catchphrase “I’m a Country Boy”.
I could go on.
Our deepest sympathies go out to Pat, Tony’s partner of many years as well as to all of Tony’s many relatives and friends with whom he has left his indelible mark.
Rest in peace H.
BY MICK DOCKING