Tinker Taylor - Downham Market’s best friend

Much-missed: the late Tinker Taylor, a great servant to his beloved Downham Market, pictured in 2010

Much-missed: the late Tinker Taylor, a great servant to his beloved Downham Market, pictured in 2010. - Credit: IAN BURT

Keith Skipper remembers an old friend from Downham Market, the local legend Tinker Taylor.

My thoughts invariably turn towards Tinker Taylor whenever I visit Downham Market. No, not part of any George Smiley spying team burrowing into the Fens. Just a cheerful chap at the heart of his community for over half a century.

He was born in Barroway Drove and called Raymond Taylor. The first name 'Tinker' was used by everyone and he later embraced it officially by deed poll. I once asked if he'd ever thought of teaming up with 'Soldier Spy' for a pantomime double act.

His response was something along the lines of leaving that to the likes of 'Scurvy Skipper' and other bright sparks dropping in from various parts of the county. At least that was more polite than many of the rubbish 'Skip' embellishments I picked up at school.

Tinker served as Downham Mayor three times as well as being a founder member of a host of local organisations and a retained firefighter. He played football for the town after earlier spells with Stow Bridge, Hilgay and Wimbotsham. He died at 84 in 2013 and there's a street in Downham named after him.

A walking encyclopaedia on Downham and district, Tinker loved a chat and always found time to sing the town's praises while plenty of others seemed more disposed towards running it down. He clearly felt as a Taylor elected to high office, an important part of his job was to stitch together a strong sense of togetherness. I also enjoyed a series of entertaining dates in Downham over the years, including a Press Gang show and mardling with local Women's Institute members in the town hall. A couple of visits to Downham Methodist Church, the second to mark the building's 50th anniversary, provided evenings to relish.

A hat-trick of enthusiastically-supported productions at nearby Upwell Methodist Church, one of them on a snowy night, showed again how safaris beyond Swaffham – and Salters Lode - could bring heart-warming rewards.

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