Village mourns community-spirited man

By Craig RobinsonA CLOSE-KNIT village was in a sombre mood as neighbours remembered its famous, community-spirited resident, John Peel.There were expressions of shock and sadness as news of Mr Peel's sudden death filtered through the community of Great Finborough, near Stowmarket, where the 65-year-old DJ had lived with his family for about half his life.

By Craig Robinson

A CLOSE-KNIT village was in a sombre mood as neighbours remembered its famous, community-spirited resident, John Peel.

There were expressions of shock and sadness as news of Mr Peel's sudden death filtered through the community of Great Finborough, near Stowmarket, where the 65-year-old DJ had lived with his family for about half his life. Friends and relatives paid tribute to the broadcasting veteran, saying that despite Mr Peel's fame, he remained very much a part of village life.

His brother, Alan, said: “It is obviously a very sad day for those of us who loved John, both for his family and for the many of those who listened to the music he played and to those whose music he was able to bring to the wider public. We will miss him very much.”


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Neighbour Sandy Lord, 58, told how Mr Peel's wife, Sheila, had supported her when her own husband, Bob, had died of a heart attack five years ago at the age of 50.

“She was one of the first people who was up here. She was making sure I was all right. You couldn't have a nicer neighbour. If you heard John, he thought the world of Sheila. They are a very close family,” she said.

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The mother-of-three added she and other residents had recently attended Mr Peel's 65th birthday. “There was a big marquee and there were a lot of people there,” she said.

Mr Peel had also arranged for the music at Mrs Lord's husband's funeral to be recorded.

Paying tribute to Mr Peel, Mrs Lord said: “He had a fantastic way with words. He had no side to him whatsoever. He always seemed to make you smile or laugh when he said something.”

Neighbour Alison Jones, 33, who used to baby-sit for the Peels' four children, said Mr Peel had been a family man who loved the peace and quiet of the small village.

“He was a very community-spirited man. Everybody knew him and he would always stop to chat. He often used to go to the local pub,” she added.

“He was very much a decent kind of guy and didn't want any hype surrounding him. He was just John, that's how everyone round here knew him, not as anything special.

“I think he was just happy to be in a quiet community, he appreciated the country atmosphere and the village life.”

Mrs Jones said his death had come as a great shock to the community he had been so actively involved in and added Mr Peel would be greatly missed.

Robin Fisher, 47, who works at a local chicken factory, said Mr Peel had run a village youth club for many years in the 1970s.

He recalled trips to Wales, Cornwall and Yugoslavia that Mr Peel had organised for the 20 to 30 club members.

“He was a popular man in the village. He always had time to speak to you. He loved football and we would often chat about that even though he supported Liverpool,” said Mr Fisher.

Churchwarden Lesley Cass, who is a neighbour of Mr Peel, said she had known him and his family for almost 30 years.

“Our children are the same age and went through school at the same time locally. Over the years I have seen quite a bit of them as a family and I think that's the big thing about John,” she added.

“Famous and known nationally as he was, he was first and foremost a family man. His family was very precious to him and here in Finborough he was very much respected for being a family man.

“He was quite private, but he did mix locally. He could often be seen in the local pub having a quiet drink or meal.

“There was no fuss or hype about John despite his fame. He was very much an all-round nice person. We will miss him dreadfully, as will all the people who particularly used to love listening to his programme. He had a lovely sense of humour.”

craig.robinson@eadt.co.uk

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