Suffolk Day: Former Radio Orwell broadcaster Patrick Eade shares his fondest memories of his home county
PUBLISHED: 12:00 21 June 2017
Broadcaster Patrick Eade’s career has taken him around the world, but on Suffolk Day he says there’s still nowhere quite like his county.
Today is Suffolk Day. What an excellent way to mark midsummer solstice; 16 hrs 38 mins and 18 seconds of daylight in which to celebrate life in our county.
Packed with history, heritage and fine foods - we’ve got it all - from rural areas of outstanding natural beauty to 50 miles of heritage coastline.
Us “southern folk” have been around since the Angles arrived from northern Germany in the fifth century. Viking Danes decided to come over too.
There was an attempt by the Dutch to invade Felixstowe in 1667, but generally speaking Suffolk folk go about our business in an unfussy manner, taking on board what life throws at us.
Recently I hosted a number of quizzes, and included a round on the county. I hadn’t appreciated that Edward III granted Stowmarket charter status in 1347, Hadleigh Cricket Club, formed in 1779, pre-dates the home of cricket the MCC, or that Felixstowe Ferry Golf Club was once captained by a future Prime Minister Arthur Balfour.
Ipswich born, I’m proud to be a Suffolk boy. Our Eade family tree is traceable to the Sudbury area in the 1780s.
The names of my great uncles, Ben and William, are inscribed on the Great Eastern Railway War Memorial at Liverpool Street Station for the sacrifice they made for King and Country during the Great War.
Growing up in the 1950s, I remember a visible military presence in Ipswich; the Royal Anglian Regiment Drill Hall in Woodbridge Road, HMS Ganges Royal Navy cadets on a weekend visit, aircraft lining up to land at RAF Bentwaters, Wattisham or Woodbridge.
I was too young to fully absorb “The Swinging 60s” but will never forget that teatime roar on April 28, 1962, my seventh birthday. Managed by Alf Ramsey, unfancied Ipswich Town had won the football league, Crawford and Phillips having bagged 73 goals between them.
The following year The Beatles played at the Ipswich Gaumont as support to Roy Orbison - then a year later in their own right. There were the Mods and Rockers, and a large graffiti sign on Spring Road railway bridge – “Hands off Caroline.”
Pirate radio played a big part in our lives.
Perhaps it was this early influence that led me while still at school in Kesgrave to start up Hospital Radio Ipswich with five other enthusiasts in 1971, then joining Radio Orwell the day before it went on air in October 1975.
I remember telling dad - after a sigh, he said - “What about your pension, boy, you’ve got a good job with the Co-op, don’t throw it all away to be on the wireless.”
Aged 52, Dad had given up a career as an accountant with Ipswich Borough Council to be ordained and served as a parish priest in Bucklesham, Brightwell and Foxhall, then finally Combs.
He never owned a passport yet my brother, three sisters and I lived and worked around the world.
Mum would visit when possible, I think dad would have thought it amusing that my BFBS Forces radio career led me to meet good old Suffolk folk such as Laurie Butler – a butcher in the Falklands, members of the 1st and 2nd Bn The Royal Anglian Regiment in Bosnia and West Belfast, and an Ipswich based RLC Reserves unit on detachment at a base in Iraq.
The first time I called upon them, their Basra compound came under mortar attack but after dusting ourselves down, we all had a nice cup of tea before several interviews took place and requests gathered for loved ones. How very British!
Visitors might think that Suffolk folk are pretty laid back. I believe we are patient, hospitable with a keen sense of fun and duty.
Newcomers to our county have brought a rich mix of arts, music and culture.
Suffolk has much to celebrate; Let us roll out the St Edmund flags, raise a glass of something brewed locally and ponder awhile that our county is the home of horse racing, we’ve landscapes that inspired Constable and Gainsborough, Charles Dickens, Benjamin Britten and Ed Sheeran.
I hope that “Suffolk Day” becomes an annual event – to realise all that is good within our county and reinforce ways to improve the lot of those less fortunate than ourselves.
What matters is that we support each other and communities are drawn together.