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Evacuee who has made his mark on home town
A COUNCIL career in Helmsley spanning 25 years has come to an end for one of the town’s best known residents.
But Ken Claridge is to continue his role as a trader in the town, despite his 80 years.
Ken, who has twice served as chairman of the town council, was a Londoner by birth who moved to the market town as an evacuee, complete with the famous label around his neck. His mother was originally from Helmsley.
Educated in Helmsley, Ken married his wife, June, a teacher, in 1961, and he became a fireman in Teesside after completing his National Service in the RAF.
But they both had a yearning to live in Helmsley and eventually their dream became a reality when they started an arts and crafts shop, and later a newsagents.
The couple have been in business for 46 years and have no plans to retire.
“We have some spendid staff,” he said.
Ken’s many interests have seen him become president of the Quarry Clay Pigeon Club, and he is also a trustee of Helmsley Walled Garden. He is a keen supporter of the sports and social club and its aspirations to carry out a major redevelopment scheme.
In addition he finds time to go game shooting.
June has been the book-keeper for the family stationery business near the parish church of All Saints, and the couple, who celebrated their golden wedding anniversary two years ago, are both keen gardeners.
Ken said: “The newspaper delivery boys we had years ago are now coming into the shop as grandfathers!”
Helmsley’s popularity as a centre for game shooting has seen many well-known faces going into their shop, among them Princess Alexandra, Dame Maggie Smith, television presenter Frank Muir, Foreign Secretary William Hague, cook Clarissa Dickson-Wright, actor Sir Anthony Hopkins, Caroline and John Kennedy Jr, and even one of the infamous Great Train Robbers.
While Helmsley has changed over the years, says Ken, its popularity as one of Yorkshire’s tourist gems has gone from strength to strength.
“Helmsley has always been a busy town,” he said. “Coaches heading from Teesside would have a break before heading to Scarborough and then call again for a meal in the town, on the return journey.”
As a councillor, he has overseen such developments as The Limes housing estate and the building of the Cleveland Way car park, as well as a number of factories and businesses which provide local employment. Further changes are likely in the future, Ken feels, with the prospect of more housing development.
“It’s a great town with lovely people,” he said. “We’re very happy to have been able to live and be in a business here. And I plan to still be involved with both the business and the town for some time yet.”