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Letters to the editor, from Bury St Edmunds and beyond

A bumper postbag this week – from politics to fund-raising.


The short video promoting ‘buying local’ with Bury St Edmunds as the star of the show is brilliant, with some very well thought out touches.

A Bury Merry Christmas was made by Allegro Creative Agency
A Bury Merry Christmas was made by Allegro Creative Agency

The look of excitement and anticipation on the little girl’s face is a joy to watch, the brilliantly festive shop windows are welcoming, and the elderly gentleman – who keeps a low profile – adds a touch of magic by not only conjuring up a snowfall, but manages to put an unexpected spring into his step as he takes his leave of our magical town.

There was, perhaps, just one thing absent from the beautifully photographed scenario – more people, but that would be nitpicking.

Brian Davies, Bury St Edmunds


Andrew Speed (Letters, November 27) is exhibiting all the stresses of adhering to an unsupportable political dogma.

His urging of spending money obviously fits in with his party leader’s notorious whims for vanity projects and u-turns but is hardly consistent with the ‘austerity’ programme shouted from the Tory soapbox over the last 10 years. His cheap jibe by the mention of Jeremy Corbyn, fails to hide the fact that amongst all the mud heaped upon that person, there was an acknowledgement, by both friends and enemies, that he was unwavering in his priority for social justice above personality politics.

Mr Speed deserves commiserations in his predicament of trying to square the circle of his own party’s inconsistencies but not for his display of pique at finding himself presented with coherent policies that inhibit his party’s usual dominance which, if he reads Martin Seeley’s (or Peter Gudde’s) column, should be a cause of shame. The Bishop’s final paragraph is a paraphrasing of the overriding sentiment in the last Labour Party manifesto and which Labour councillors pursue and which Mr Speed so stridently opposes.

Malcolm Searle, Bury St Edmunds


I am not sure where ex-town councillor Andrew Speed is getting his information from when he states there is too much ideology on the town council and not enough action. Town councillors are elected to represent the people of Bury St Edmunds and ensure that the money they contribute through the precept is spent wisely and appropriately. It must also be said that the town council does not exist to prop up the deficiencies of the district and county councils.

Mr Speed is quite right when he says the real battle is to deliver value for residents with maximum collaboration and this collaboration has been demonstrated time and time again. For example, councillors worked together to deliver funding for two PCSOs, additional money for the local Destination Management Organisation (BSE and Beyond) as well as funding for a variety of local groups. In all cases, the process of asking questions and examining details has ensured we act as responsible custodians of our residents’ money.

However, if minimum fuss means a lack of proper scrutiny and an unquestioning approval of all and every project, then every councillor would be failing their duty to residents if they neglected to question and review in the spirit of good governance.

I would add that no-one is trying to score political points other than Mr Speed himself, possibly with an eye on the upcoming county council elections. I’m sure town councillors will continue to deliver for the town and will endeavour to spend residents’ money wisely and not just use it because it is there.

I am also sure that when the pandemic is over, there will be many opportunities for the town council to bring forward initiatives to assist the people of our town, and I know councillors look forward to helping to progress these.

Nicola Iannelli-Popham, Abbeygate Ward Town Councillor


I decided this week to try and make cider. I Had the apples but needed some airlocks and bits and yeast.

I could have got it on Amazon but I was impatient. With a tiny bit of research, it turned out that Beautiful Beers, in Bury, had everything I needed. Not only was it cheaper, I could click and collect it that day and it came with some fantastic expert advice and offer of follow up help if I got stuck. I have rung them twice since and they have helped me happily all the way. I could never have got that on Amazon!

I’ve had my meat delivered by Lavenham Butchers and I’ve just had a delivery from ‘Daily Grind’, the Bury Market coffee stall, of my favorite organic coffee.

I think I want a nice new dog bed for Christmas so I’ll try ringing ‘Just our Stall’, the basket shop in St John’s Street, who can normally find you any size. They are delivering, too! I wonder how much of my Christmas things can come from just up the road.

Thank you shops local shops, we are lucky to have you.

Alice Pawsey, via email


What makes our town of Bury St Edmunds so interesting for the shopper and visitor alike, is not the multi-nationals – who are but part of the scene – but the unique number of independent shops which have, over the years, been the life’s blood that has kept the heart of Bury beating so vigorously, not to forget the twice weekly market which has, since lockdown, been conspicuous by its absence.

Calls for Joe public to support their own high streets, could not have come at a better time for us to ditch the out of town supermarkets, who have had it all their own way for months, and get behind the little man – and woman – who have had all the odds stacked against them ever since this Covid-19 crisis began. We have a choice, save our high street, or be left without any choice !

Margaret Mellor, Bury St Edmunds


As we all know, Christmas is a time for giving and sharing and what better time could there be for getting together and giving and sharing the virus.

We need to hurry up though, we only have five days in which to do this. Road speed limits should be abolished during this five-day period so that we can all get to our loved ones a jolly sight quicker. We should use this time too, to welcome into our house any Covid sceptics, but especially those who have refused to wear a mask or keep their distance. We all need to work together on this. We shouldn’t worry about those people with cancer or heart problems or any other life-threatening medical problems who desperately need hospital treatment, they can wait until the nurses and doctors have saved those who have had a great five days of joy. It is very important to prioritise those who haven’t stuck to the guidance throughout and put in danger those who have.

Peter Critchley, Pakenham


Humour, fresh air, and exercise are probably the best defence against Covid until a vaccine comes along.

To lift spirits in these gloomy times, we post a selection of cartoons and jokes on our outside noticeboard at 26 Church Walks, Bury St Edmunds, IP33 1NJ [between College Street and Bridewell Lane].

If you’re feeling low, have a look. They are proving quite an attraction. Add to this, you will get some fresh air and exercise, as Church Walks is traffic free, so it really is a win-win situation.

Help! To keep changing our selection, do you have a joke or cartoon to share? If so, post it to us, or pop it through our letterbox. We can type or adjust the image size.

Church Walks has all age groups walking through. Primary school children scampering to school, Mums and Dads and of course us ‘wrinklies’. So, nothing too crude, rude, lewd, or controversial please . . . . okay maybe slightly!

Simon Harding, Church Walks, Bury St Edmunds


Wendy Hooton and Bev Fenning would like to thank everyone for their generous donations to their Remembrance Cycle Ride on the 11th of the 11th.

We collected an amazing £72.88 at the Angel Hill Remembrance Service.

We were part of a team of female Army Veterans from all over the UK and all ex-Women’s Royal Army Corps. We cycled to our local memorials to pay our respects and take photos to put on social media.

Normally there would have been over 100 of us on parade at the Cenotaph in London but due to Covid-19 this wasn’t to be.

I decided to organise this cycle ride and post our photos so others not able to attend a local Remembrance Service could share ours. Bev and I cycled to Fornham all Saints, Hengrave, Flempton, West Stow, Culford, Angel Hill Bury St Edmunds for 11am, Nowton, Hawstead, Lawshall, Stanningfield and Great Whelnetham. A total of 30 miles.

In total, our team covered a total of just under 1,000 miles, 125 memorials and 12 graves. We have raised over £2,000 to be shared between the Royal British Legion and the Women’s Royal Army Corps Association. If you would like to make a donation the link is below. Thank you so much.


Wendy Hooton, Voluntary Fund-raiser, Women’s Royal Army Corps Association


Sharp falls in income for many are already with us, and more are coming. Obvious solutions are of the sort that came with Clement Attlee’s Labour government following World War Two, preventing a return to the grim conditions of the 1930s. Those solutions included nationalisations and a massive public house-building programme. But are we to be faced with old lines such as ‘There is no alternative to tight Treasury strings’, supported by wagging moralistic fingers blaming victims of the evolving catastrophic recession for their own plight?

Over this last month, details of the growing tragedy have been tucked away into the shadows, but they speak for themselves. In April 2019 a little over 400,000 employed people were paid below the minimum wage (£8.72 an hour for over 25s, less for those younger). By April this year this figure had risen to above two million, a five-fold increase. True, Covid-furlough support played a role in this, but the increase will not vanish with the arrival of mass vaccination.

Other terrifying figures have been for unemployment. Between July and September this year the UK unemployment total was 1.62 million, roughly 20 per cent more than the same quarter for last year, and we can expect the current quarter to produce a further increase, as companies suffer falls in profit, with many tumbling into insolvency and administration. A rise in unemployment by next summer to 2.6 million is predicted.

Damage limitation measures have included the extension of the furlough scheme and increased support for the self-employed, but many are obviously not just falling through the cracks but falling into the abyss. And some live in West Suffolk, where claims for Universal Credit payments have more than doubled.

In this situation the Government’s continued intention, from next April, to withdraw the present monthly Universal Credit allowance of £1,000, thereby attacking the incomes of 6 million people, is a disgrace requiring reversal. Maintaining the supplement is supported by Carolyn Fairbairn, director-general of the Confederation of British Industry, who knows well that companies providing products to make our lives more pleasant rely on the ability of customers to buy them. Life on Universal Credit means an uncomfortable struggle, and the planned payment reduction can only increase indebtedness and mean choosing, for example, between heating and eating. Again, a cross-party report by MPs in October recommended an end to the five week waiting period for new UC claimants through non-repayable initial payments. Can we hear the voices of Jo Churchill and Matthew Hancock raised in noisy support for these two steps?

As things are, recent healthy growth in trade union memberships can add to pressure on a Government over-ready to waste large funds on granting health-related contracts to inept friendly private providers, but pressure needs to come from almost all of us. In summer 1940 no-one at the Treasury said more Spitfires could not be afforded. While we do not need more defence spending now, we do need more generous welfare payments, plus major public investment, most obviously in building public housing at low rents. And we need these things now.

John Ellison , Secretary, West Suffolk Trades Union Council


In these strange times of social distancing and reflections, and as we appreciate the times when we could enjoy team sport, either on the football field or afterwards at the pub, it seems appropriate to write a short piece on the Bury and District Football League, as it folded in 2019 after 112 years. This follows the excellent piece by Peter Utting) Bury Free Press, September 25).

The Bury and District Football League was formed in 1907, but there are few records of it back then. The league then continued until last year, with the only breaks for the First and Second World Wars.

There are minutes of a meeting held on 23rd August 1919 at the Three Kings Hotel at which it was carried that the Bury and District League should be ‘revived for the ensuing season’. There are also minutes of the first meeting after the Second World War and held on July 26th 1946 at Everards Hotel. The league re-commenced in the 1947 season. There were only three divisions then, but this became four next season with Divisions 3A and 3B. The first Division 1 winners were Exning United and they successfully retained the championship the following year.

Other teams to top the first division up to the 1971-72 season included Brandon Town Street (six times), Bradfield St George (twice), Beck Row, Elmswell, RAF Honington, and from 1962-63 for eight seasons on the trot, Finningham FC. St Edmunds RC won in 1970-71 to break the stranglehold.

The reason the tale pauses at this season is that Sicklesmere Football Club was re-formed in the 1971-72 season and applied to join the league, but there were no vacancies as all 64 places were taken – four divisions of 16 teams each.

Handbooks were issued to all club secretaries back then, with historic details as well as contact details and rules. The annual fee for teams participating was £2 and referees were paid 75p per game with 2p per mile travelling expenses. Some say the fees should have stayed at 75p, but we will come to that later!

A team dropped out and this enabled Sicklesmere FC to participate in the 1972-73 season in Division 4. The league maintained its 64 teams for this season only and thereafter there was a general decline in clubs joining and more were folding or moving to other leagues. It has to be said that the facilities of a lot of the clubs left a bit to be desired, not least those using council-owned pitches, but that is another story.

From 1971-72, when they jointly won Division 1 with Elmswell, St Edmunds RC (or St Edmunds RCYC as they became), dominated the top division, winning it five out of the next six seasons. The interlopers were CENTA, who in fact won it a further twice before Northbury ended their reign. Elmswell won the title for the next two years and then Fornham St Martin YC took over and won for the next three years. Walsham then won for the next two seasons but then moved to a higher grade of football, leaving the door open for Stanton to win, but they also moved on.

Ten years after Sicklesmere could not get in the league, as it was full, only 46 teams were left in the 1981-82 season.

This dropped to 40 three seasons later and there were only three divisions in the 1984-85 season.

Despite the league getting sponsorship from various generous bodies in the seasons to follow, the number of teams gradually decreased. There were 30 teams in the 1998-99 season but this dropped to 11 in 2017-18 and only seven teams one season later. There was not a final league champion (of the now named St Edmundsbury Football League) in this season, due to player problems, which says it all. Obviously this could not continue and in September 2019 the league folded.

On a lighter note, at some stage during the 1980s the rules were changed and clubs were not allowed to challenge referee bookings, unless there was mistaken identity. This prompted a rush of money entering the coffers of the Suffolk FA, as each booking was a £5 fine, no arguments!

Just a few of the reasons for booking a player are as below, and we must wonder how many professional footballers would have survived the zealous junior football referees!

“He shouted ‘Christ no, Ref’ in a loud and somewhat agitated manner.”

“He described my decision as ‘ridiculous’ so I cautioned him.”

“After asking for a foul he said, ‘Your bottle’s gone’.”

“He gave his name as Fred Bassett.”

“After a decision against him he said, “No wonder you can’t get referees these days.”

All booked!

Those who played in the Bury and District League all have great memories of the games and the people we were lucky enough to meet and the friendships formed. We always won the game in the pub afterwards, whatever the result on the pitch. Let us all keep safe and hope that some normality will return.

There will, sadly, be no return for the Bury and District Football League, but thanks to all those who gave their time to run it and make the memories possible.

Richard Mortlock, Bury St Edmunds


On Friday, November 20,, while walking up Abbeygate Street with my daughter-in-law, I fainted. Three people immediately came over to help my daughter-in-law, till I recovered.

One was an American man, who bought me a bottle of water from the adjacent shop. The other two were the shop owner, plus a woman passerby. I hope they read this paper, as I would like to thank them so much for going out of their way to offer such kind support.

Bridget Maxwell, Great Barton


On two separate occasions recently, I needed the attention of paramedics, three in total, who were all very professional and helpful. All three, in the course of their work, had caught the Covid virus, luckily survived and had returned to work.

On a daily basis these people face this disease to help us, and do so willingly because it is their job. We should be forever grateful to them for this dedication, but, as I understand it, they are not in line for the first roll out of the vaccine, if this is true, how can it be? Surely they should be included with other hospital front line staff.

Bernard Freeman, Great Barton

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