CORNISH flags will fly proudly in Callington as the town celebrates the life of a man who gave the gift of laughter and friendship gladly.
Richard John Trevithick, known as John, died on February 15, aged 78.
John was best known for his revival of the Callington Honey Fair, a tradition begun when Henry III granted a charter for a street market in the 13th century.
After taking the initiative to stage the first event in 1978, John passed the baton to the Callington Lions Club, but he remained a central part of the organisation – and the exuberance – of the day.
A familiar figure in his suit, Cornish tartan tie and bee-decorated hat, John was very proud of Honey Fair, which has become a defining event for Callington.
His dedication to the town saw itself out in many other roles and was born from a strong sense of pride in his heritage.
He was made a bard of the Cornish Gorsedh in the early 90s, with the fitting bardic name Map Kellywyk – son of Callington.
John was descended from mining engineer and inventor of the first steam locomotive Richard Trevithick, and his great-grandfather had worked the mines at Redmoor. Even as a very young man, John set himself to rescuing and preserving Callington’s historical features, including the Town Hall Gates, a granite cider press on the South Hill Road, and a drinking trough now restored to St Mary’s Square.
John began his apprenticeship as an electrical engineer at 15 in his home town, later working for SWEB in the delivery side of the company in a career of 35 years. He was also a retained fire fighter at Callington Fire Station from 1961-1987, ending up as the brigade’s sub-officer, and was very proud that sons Paul and Richard had followed into the fire service.
While John was firmly grounded in his roots, he also had a long and close involvement with the travelling fairs. From the age of 11, John had travelled with the Rowlands Fun Fair on weekends, and after his retirement, he spent longer periods, joined by his wife June, on the road, and the “Noah’s Ark” was the ride he looked after.
He was made an honorary member of the Showman’s Guild in 1999, a rare honour for someone outside of the showmen families.
In addition to his involvement in many town organisations, John was a long-standing member of Callington Town Council, and took on the role of mayor and portreeve in 1979-80.
“He was pivotal in our community,” said town clerk Helen Dowdall, speaking on behalf of the Council and portreeve Suzan Tolman. “The Honey Fair really epitomised what he was about – getting people together, fun and friendship. He established really good relationships with people. He was a kind soul, and he would make you feel welcome. There was always a lot of laughter.”
Knowing that only a small number would be able to attend John’s funeral, the Town Council decided to demonstrate the strength of their feeling.
“We were so saddened by the news that he had died, and we wanted to reach out to the family.
“We are flying the Cornish flag on the Town Council flagpole nearest the Bull’s Head, in a kind of salute to John, because he enjoyed seeing his friends in the pub.
“On the day of his funeral, we will be flying the Town Council flag as a mark of respect.”
President of Callington Lions Club, Karen Toft, said that John’s input to Honey Fair and his smile on the day would be greatly missed.
“John’s passing is a very sad occasion for all members. Without him, there would be no Honey Fair each October, and this is the Lions’ major event each year.
“John had many contacts with market traders and Rowlands Fair and so his assistance in taking an active part on the day was always appreciated.”
Kevin Oliver, chairman of Callington Town Forum, said: “I have had the pleasure of knowing John as a friend for a few decades. He was a pleasure to be around, quick witted and always having fun.
“John lived life as a free spirit and on his terms. I cannot speak highly enough of how he was loved in the community. He was Mr Callington.”
John leaves his wife, June, sons Paul and Richard, six grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. The date of a family funeral service with cortege through the town is to be confirmed.
John and June would have been married for 56 years this September. His wife and sons describe him as a warm, loving, family man, who was always interested in and caring toward others. Many wonderful holidays were taken and happy memories made together, said June.
In instructions left to his family, says son Paul, John has underlined a request that the Cornish flag at St Mary’s Church be flown at the top of the flag pole, not at half-mast, and writes: “Have a happy thanksgiving service, as I lived my life.”