Well, Ed, I feel the need to reply on behalf of the great little village of Chackmore. Yes, it was unlucky to suffer its fire, followed by the stray bullet that killed its teacher Ann Salisbury, but let me update you.
Firstly, the picture of the former village school. I was educated there. If you lived too far away to walk, you were collected by Varney’s geriatric bus. Our teacher was Mrs Young, her husband, Bill, managed Lloyds Bank in town.
I was still there when the new school was built – one of the workers could make a penny disappear from his hand! Our headmaster was Mr Lionel Addison. We had a sports field at the rear, and at break-time, we had the use of the tarmac netball court with a steel climbing frame. Nowadays, that’s the staff car park.
Chackmore has been very lucky, indeed. Once, I was watching a rugby match with a lad from the village when we had a daft idea to hold a spoof Hunt Meet for charity.
Once the seed was sown, adding sensible ideas from the late Richard Smith, a Chackmore farmer, plus sound advice from Dorian Williams, the TV commentator who lived at Foscote, all topped up with active encouragement from almost every business in Buckingham, our idea took flight.
Then, we had to ask ourselves, why do it? To raise money for handicapped children.
How will we be doing this? We’ll dress as huntsmen.
How will we hunt? On red Honda All Terrain Vehicles (new on the agricultural scene).
What’s the programme? Well, we’ll can start with a drink, then dash across Richard’s fields in pursuit of pantomime foxes.
Our bit of village fun grew like Topsy: Dorian Williams offered to come to judge our ‘best turned out’ rider. A friend of mine who was a cameraman with ITV said he would film the event, and we coined twin names, The Chackmore Charity Chase aka The Honda and Hound.
Once we had fixed a date, Sunday 24th March, 1985, we had our programme printed which, naughtily, looked like an edition of the Horse and Hound magazine.
The day arrived, and so did the riders, loads of them. Another friend of ours, now a TV personality,
Charlie Ross checked the participants, fining them for anything out of place! An ITV cameraman and his sound man filmed in the village but didn’t dare follow us across the fields. However their footage grabbed us a slot on the national TV news, when its newsreader reported that we had raised £750, when in fact it was £7,500. Hell’s bells and buckets of blood!
Will you do it again everyone asked? You bet! I had collected newspaper reports from around the world, as far as Brazil, and our daily papers, and, of course, The Advertiser did us proud!
We soon saw it again when cameraman Tricky Watts, a Buckingham lad, showed us his video. We needed to show it to our supporters, so, we held a Bike and Beagle Ball in the Queen’s Temple at Stowe. It was a Film Premiere and Disco. Our wives served home-made food in a scout marque, and we raised more money.
That evening the money was handed our chosen charities – Mencap, See-Saw, Helen House, Lynsey Angell Appeal, Riding For The Disabled and BBC’s Children In Need, all supporting handicapped children – £7,500 went a long way in those days.
The following year, we did it all again, with extra knobs! The course was made more difficult, making it impossible to cross the brook without falling off. Gosh the huge crowd loved that. Buckingham businesses helped again and the meet raised over £15,000. Our Summer Ball was held in the Marble Hall at Stowe, adding another £4,000.
Each year ever more famous celebrities climbed aboard: Mark Curry, Dave Lee Travis, Raymond-Brooks Ward, Richard Branson, Barry McGuigan (boxer) Tessa Sanderson (olympic javelin thrower), Andy Gray (footballer), Eddie, The Eagle, and the gorgeous Caron Keating.
The annual events went on to raise a tremendous £185,000 over six years while giving fun to villagers and projecting Chackmore village across the globe.
Tragically, Richard Smith, joint master, died in 1991, aged only 45, so we put the event to bed with him.
There you are Ed: Chackmore is a great place!”
>Anyone who would like to know more should email Steve Wheeler on [email protected]