Tribute to Bob

Wetherby resident Bob Hall with his copy of the Wetherby News from 1857. (S)
Wetherby resident Bob Hall with his copy of the Wetherby News from 1857. (S)

A Wetherby man who could trace his family roots in the town back to the mid 1700s has died just seven weeks before his 100th birthday.

Robert (Bob) Hall, who was well known for his large scrapbooks on his family history, passed away last Saturday at his home of the past two years, Wetherby Manor.

Son Robert Hall, who lives in New Jersey, America, told the Wetherby News: “Robert (Bob) Hall was a Wetherby man, through and through.

“He was a life long member of Wetherby Methodist Church and was a treasure trove of local lore and history, both within his long lifetime of 99 years and from earlier times.”

Bob was born in Wetherby on March 9, 1915. His father was Percy Hall, a butcher in the Market Place, and his mother was Emma Bland originally from County Durham, who came to be a cook in a private house in Wetherby.

He attended Crossley Street primary and went on to business college in Leeds where he became proficient in shorthand and typing.

He then took a job with Yorkshire Electricity Board, based in the Wetherby Market Place.

For many years he would proudly relate that he threw the switch that brought electricity to Little Ribston for the first time.

In 1940, Bob was called up for service in the Royal Air Force where his office skills were put to good use and was mentioned in dispatches for outstanding work and devotion to duty.

After the war ended, Bob was sent on a short assignment to Belgium where he was billeted with a family who would later host Robert and his wife Bessie on their honeymoon. Then he went on to Germany, where he learnt some German and could for many years later recite on command, “One Man went to mow” in German.

After he was demobilized in 1946, he entered Local Government in Garforth. On a walking holiday in North Wales soon after returning to civilian life and staying at a Methodist Guest House, he met Miss Elizabeth Smith, a school teacher of Jarrow, County Durham.

They married on September 3 1949 and settled in Wetherby and built their first and only home in Wetherby on North Grove Avenue. In August 1952, Bob and Bessie welcomed a son John Robert.

Bob continued council work in York, and then in 1954 he was appointed Deputy Clerk to the Wetherby Rural District Council.

His work included organising housing and general contract work around the area. He could years later point out with pride all the council housing developments he had overseen.

Bob was also the deputy registrar of births, marriages and deaths. He attended county courts and magistrate courts on council business. When the local government was reorganised in 1974, Bob was transferred to Harrogate Borough Council and became Mayor’s Secretary until he retired in 1977.

During his long retirement Bob and Bessie travelled extensively in Europe and also visited relatives of Bessie’s in Australia.

They went on safari to Kenya, bird watching in New Zealand, retraced the Second World War battles in North Africa and went to the arctic circle in Finland.

Bob and Bessie’s son settled in North America and they made twice yearly trips to visit him and spend time with their three grandchildren.

Bob came from a family with a long association with Wetherby. His paternal grandmother was a member of the Whitfield family and it is possible to trace that family back to the mid-1700’s in Wetherby.

His son Robert added: “Dad was known for his voluminous family scrap book that had been compiled over many generations and contained many historic documents including census data showing the Whitfield family as millworkers.

Robert added: “The Hall family came to Wetherby, around 1830 and John Rhodes Hall was a corn merchant and for more than 40 years the Secretary of the local branch of Oddfellows Friendly Society and also Actuary for the Yorkshire Penny Bank.

“Bob was a local preacher for more than 50 years and Bessie would proudly declare that she preferred that her husband be able to preach a good sermon, than fix the house, when confronted by one of his less than stellar efforts on the home maintenance front.”

Bessie was a Methodist circuit steward herself and she and Bob enjoyed over 50 years of married life before she died in 2003.

Bob kept house for himself after he was widowed and continued travelling to the US and also to Spain and Portugal every winter, to top up his much loved tan.

During the length of his retirement he was an active member of the Wetherby Men’s Forum and enjoyed tending his garden, generating many pounds of raspberries and fresh vegetables.

The funeral service to celebrate Bob’s life will be held at Wetherby Methodist Church, Bank Street on Monday, January 26 at 1pm.