The Community Heroes Plaque was established by the former Braintree Chamber of Trade and Commerce, in memory of members of the community who have given great service to our community.
If you have further information or photographs of any of our Community Heroes, please do get in touch!
1930 – 2021
Born in the Rhondda South Wales, life in the 1930s was tough – but there was an inbred sense of community and social justice. These values stayed with Elwyn throughout his life. Elwyn worked with and for the community both in his chosen career in education, and in his personal life.
He moved to Braintree in 1974 when he was appointed Headteacher of Kings Road Primary School in Chelmsford, quickly becoming involved in Braintree life. He supported the swimming club, the guiding & scouting movement and the Rugby Club; became a member of The Museum Trust; was a Tabor Centre Trustee; and served on the governing bodies of the Alec Hunter & Gt Bradfords Junior Schools.
He always claimed that his greatest achievement was to have saved “The Tabor Triangle” as a green space for Braintree, by overturning Essex County Council’s decision to sell the land for building development.
Elwyn’s lasting legacy is the lovely park in the centre of Braintree now known as Weavers Park.
1949 – 2011
David joined Business Development Services in Braintree after 36 years with Barclays Bank.
After gaining a degree in Banking, he became the Branch Manager of Chipping Ongar, before joining the Business Corporate Team, based in Chelmsford. After leaving Barclays David became a mentor with Academy of Learning Limited, under a 2 year European funded project, becoming involved with small & medium businesses.
During his time with them, in 2002 he also joined Business Development Services and has played an active part in furthering the Enterprise Agency culture, at Braintree, Saffron Walden and Great Dunmow. In February 2006 he became a Member of the Institute of Business Advisors.
Over the years David had dealt with a vast range of businesses (and their owners) and was well known in Braintree. Sadly, David died after a short illness in 2011.
The patriarch of a long established Braintree family, Peter is remembered by many as the man in charge of the roundabouts.
Peter sat with a roundabout in George Yard for many years, helping thousands of children have a fun ride.
He also had an entire fleet of rides which were often scattered around the Town at the annual Christmas event.
The Late Bandmaster, 1923 – 2015
Kenneth, Kenny, Ken Few was a wonderful man; he was a family man, a loving husband, father, grandfather and great grandfather. Ken was an enthusiastic and very knowledgeable gardener and loved to eat his own home grown veg. He was extremely generous with his time, knowledge and experience, and dedicated much of his life to teach and promote music to people of all ages. In fact, he often said that he was so fortunate to have been taught to play by his own father, that he really wanted to dedicate his time to giving this same enjoyment and love of playing music to others.
Devoted and committed to his band, Ken conducted two nights a week, only ever missing two rehearsals in more than 40 years. Once, when he broke his knee cap, he returned to the band the following week propping himself up on a shooting-stick in order to lead the rehearsal. His keen ear for music enabled him to hear and identify any wrong notes being played and who might be at fault, even when the whole band was playing, and he was quick to correct mistakes. Ken loved playing music for the people and ensuring that the band played music that the people knew and wanted to hear – this is what made the band so successful.
Ken began playing when he was just 8 years old and played his first solo in Chelmsford Cathedral at the age of 11. As a talented player in his father’s band, he initially played tenor horn, but when WW2 was declared, then almost overnight the cornet section of The Braintree Town Band was called up to service and Ken was then promoted to principle cornet. Ken went on to form Kenny Few’s swing band and also played as a working musician in dance halls and holiday camps.
In the early 1970s, while bandmaster of Long Melford band and deputy bandmaster of Essex Police Band, he began teaching a group of young people to play the cornet. He set up a little informal band in the warehouse of his grocery shop in Bradford Street (now Benson’s Bar). Often, this small band of just four or five members would practice in the aisles of the shop, but before long other musicians joined and the band grew. Eventually, the name ‘Bocking Concert Brass’ was chosen and using his own finances Ken began to buy instruments and music for the band.
Ken was at the heart of the community in Bocking, and for many years he helped organise the annual Bocking Mayday Fayre with band members and local residents, partly as a means for local people to come together and celebrate, and also as a means to raise funds for the local community and for the band. Other fundraising events included regular jumble sales and playing Carols. Eventually these fundraising efforts ended when the band was sponsored by Braintree’s Knopp Electronic Services.
Ken taught countless children and adults to play throughout his life, never charging for his tuition. In July 1999 he was proudly escorted by his granddaughter Louise to the Queen’s Garden Party at the invitation of the Lord Lieutenant of Essex, in recognition of his tireless unpaid work with the town’s amateur musicians. He was voted Braintree Citizen of the Year in October 2003 for his musical services to the community, and in 2006 both Ken and the band as a whole were given the International Award for Community Excellence.
In his youth, Ken was a keen footballer and played for Braintree Town Football Club and enjoyed being involved with the Essex Darts team alongside his wife Flo. He was also the Chairman of Bocking United Services Club for a number of years.
Ken remained as Bandmaster of his band until his death on Friday 23rd January 2015. His last band engagement was at George Yard on 20th December 2014 and it was a fitting testament to his life when he played Christmas Carols for the last time at Bocking United Services Club the next day with many musicians and family members present. He will be sadly missed by the band, his family, and by the whole community.
Scott Thomas Gilhooly
Community Champion, 1976 – 2020
Scott Gilhooly was a loving and highly considered local businessman, who successfully run the Swiss Bell public house Braintree for almost 20 years. Scott went above and beyond to help others, and the business was very much a family concern – his Mum Doreen was also a popular figure working proudly alongside her Son at the pub.
During the 20 years in business, Scott worked tirelessly connecting with people within the community, making the pub a warm, friendly and safe ‘family-hub’ which so many adored. With an enthusiastic and fun-loving personality, which was simply magnificent, Scott did a wonderful job of leading, facilitating and supporting many local initiatives and events. Whether they be local community groups, family functions or fundraisers, he dedicated himself to the cause and offered use of his venue. Scott put people above profit every time when it came to business – it was always about bringing people together and creating a space inclusive for all.
Hosting many ‘house’ sports teams including darts, pool and football, Scott was a proud sponsor of the local Great Bradfords Football Club (GBFC) as well as a friend and supporter! He will be remembered as being instrumental in establishing a new men’s team at the club, which continues going from strength to strength. GBFC unveiled a new club trophy in honour and remembrance of Scott in 2020, the ‘Prestigious Scott Gilhooly Award’ which is to be awarded annually to the player who displays exceptional performance throughout the season.
Scott was an untiring advocate of everything community, lending himself to many different projects and initiatives. Pulling people and resources together for the greater good was certainly a strength of his and perhaps how he became known as a ‘community champion’. He was an avid campaigner and personally invested in providing support for a safer community, improving services and accessible spaces. Also a member of ‘Friends of Bocking Blackwater’ (open space and nature reserve); collaborative working over many years has seen a community space protected and transformed beyond recognition, preserving the natural environment for now and future generations – diverse in its attraction this is a space enjoyed by families, dog walkers, leisure seekers and a plethora of wildlife and species. Now proudly standing in Scott’s memory is a beautiful English Oak tree adjacent to the Fairview and River Blackwater, where Scott would once play as a young boy and often enjoyed spending time with friends and family.
During the early impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, Scott stepped up his support and took action against homelessness when many support groups and charities were either restricted or halted. Working with ‘Warm Hearts for Cold Hands’ (WHFCH) and ‘Sanctus’ Chelmsford, he self-funded and cooked from scratch hot meals for no less than 100 people, and also donated food and snacks for those in need. In Scott’s memory efforts for the homeless continues with Julia Best of WHFCH collecting food donations to produce breakfast (grace) bags to distribute weekly.
Scott’s life was most tragically taken in May 2020. Shortly before his passing he began campaigning to raise money with the Braintree Fund for a defibrillator to be fitted in Braintree that would be accessible 24/7. Following Scott’s sad passing, grand gestures and generous donations from members of the community, friends and family resulted in three new defibrillator installations across the Braintree and Bocking district. One defibrillator has been fitted at Great Bradfords Junior School where Scott himself attended, another at Causeway House Council office, and a third at the village hall for St Mary’s Church in Bocking. The gift of lifesaving equipment for the Braintree and Bocking district elevates Scott’s legacy, the memory of a truly spirited community champion and inheritance of a great example.
An everlasting legacy, Scott’s beautiful cover of Yazoo’s “Only You” reached number one in the iTunes and Amazon chart shortly after his passing in May 2020, raising a huge amount of money and all proceeds going to Braintree’s Hope House charity (helping to break the cycle of homelessness). Scott’s cover even knocked Lady Gaga and Ariana Grande off the number one spot and got the nod from The Flying Pickets and Alison Moyet herself on Twitter!
Devoted to a promise of hope, Scott, a much loved father, son, brother, uncle and brother-in-law, is and will remain hugely missed by so many who loved him.
1943 – 2009
Who was he? The inscription on his headstone simply reads “A very special man”. To his family, friends and all who met him, he was a very special sort of person. He had time for everyone and nothing was too much trouble.
He came to Braintree as a baby and his whole working life was spent in the area. He was actively involved in the local church firstly with his parents at the Baptist Church and after his marriage to Janet in 1968 at St Paul’s Hay Lane. David was active in several other areas of Braintree life over the years – The Bocking Windmill Committee, the Local History Society, the Community Association and the Public Gardens. For several years he was a school governor.
He had a great interest in local history. He researched many local topics, wrote several books, gave talks to local groups and schools, led town walks and ran a local history course at Alec Hunter Humanities College. One of them had worked at Lake and Elliots, as had David. Bernie’s researches unearthed enough material for a book, “Cycle of Events” which David and Bernie wrote together.
In 2009, Alec Hunter Humanities College celebrated its 50th Birthday. David had helped compile a 50th Anniversary Book. He received the proof copy just 2 days before he died in August 2009. He was able to read it through and pass the final text to the school ready for publication in September.
Many local people will remember him for his enthusiasm for his town and its people, past and present. Others will remember his advice to “look up” above the modern shop fronts and see evidence of the town’s past.
David’s daughter remembers him telling her than when he was growing up, he used to like to stand on the corner opposite the White Hart with his best friend. They would point up in the sky at nothing until they got a crowd, and then leave them wondering what they were looking at. He did like a laugh!
Evelyn was involved in several areas of community activities in Braintree.
She was a magistrate, President of the St. John’s Ambulance Braintree unit, and also helped with the children’s choir at St. Michael’s Church.
For many years she was Chair of Braintree and Bocking Community Association.
Evelyn was also an active member of the Carnival Committee and various other charities.
Ann Rolls was a highly regarded local artist, whose talents were diverse, although she personally specialised in Calligraphy and wood carving.
She was a sought after, appreciative and demanding tutor who will be missed in the community.
Ann made an enormous contribution to the Community through her unflagging commitment to Braintree Community Centre and the Essex Handicrafts Association.
Husband of Ann Rolls.
Longstanding member of the Community Centre Committee and oversaw the relocation of the Community Centre from Victoria Street to its present site
A foster parent for many years.
1936 – 2009
George Shiffner ABIPP, who was easily recognised in the town in his wide-brimmed hat, died after a long battle with cancer on 17th September 2009.
George was born in Stockton Heath, Cheshire in 1936, the son of a brewer. After schooling at Wellington College, Berkshire, and three years National Service including time with the SAS in Kuala Lumpur he started working in 1959 with a firm of photographers in Oxford. There he met his wife-to-be Helena and they married in 1961. This was a pivotal year as he also moved to Braintree, buying the photographic business in Coggeshall Road where he traded as a photographer until his retirement in 2005. His daughter Penny was born in 1962 and his son Michael in 1963.
Apart from portraits and wedding photography he carried out commercial commissions and was the official photographer for the Essex Show for nearly 20 years until it closed. In 1995 he acquired the Waggon & Horses pub in Great Yeldham which he helped run with his son Michael until his death.
George became involved in many aspects of local life, looking always to improve the image and commercial attractiveness of Braintree. He was a key member of the Round Table, The Halstead and Braintree 41 Club, the Rotary Club, as well as playing an invaluable role in the Chamber of Commerce and the Town Centre Strategy Group for many years.
He will be remembered by many as a tireless worker for the commercial life of the town.
Jean came to Braintree with her husband and two children, at the beginning of 1965. She played table tennis from the age of twelve and by the age of eighteen was playing in the ladies Premier Table Tennis team, then took up Tennis and Dancing. On coming to Braintree, Jean’s husband became Captain of Crittall’s Tennis Club and she became Match Secretary for 25 years.
During this time, Jean was a founder member of Notley High School PTA. After the death of her husband in 1981 she decided to take up Yoga with members of the MS Society from Chelmsford and Colchester – Jean had been diagnosed as suffering from MS when she was twenty-one years old but being very positive in outlook decided to carry on as if nothing had happened, tolerating the bad spells and living life to the full when she felt better.
In 1982 Jean decided that Braintree should have its own branch of the MS Society and the experience she had gained during her years as PTA Secretary proved very useful. She was asked to join the Social Services Development Committee in 1983, as one of their proposed projects was to provide a Day Centre for the physically handicapped in the area. After many meetings and many years, with a grant from the Spastics Society, the Tabor Centre was launched in 1990.
The Tabor Centre opened on 5th February 1990. Jean and Ray Turner, with the help of some volunteers, helped to clear an old workshop at the original Braintree High School ready for the opening. This year, 2011, the Tabor Centre had its’ 21st Birthday and looks forward to many more years.
In October 2003 the Rotary Club of Braintree & Bocking organised a ceremony to recognise those who have given outstanding service to the Community and Jean was awarded “Citizen of the Year” as one of the instigators of the Tabor Centre together with Eileen & Ray Turner who were Highly Commended.
Sadly Jean lost her battle with MS and died in September 2005.
Former Principle of Braintree College.
Founder of the Braintree Male Voice Choir and local music teacher.
Stalwart supporter of Braintree District Arts.