George Michael (Mick) Hogben died on 23rd February, after struggling against illness for many years.
Born at North Elham, Mick's first job after leaving Elham School was at Elham Bakery, which then had five or six vans on the road. As Mick never learned to drive, he had eventually to find another job, and most of his working life was spent at the War Department wood yard at Acrise. Day after day, year after year, Mick walked the three miles there and back, right up to his retirement. Though not a natural athlete, Mick was a surprisingly aggressive table tennis player, but later turned to the gentler short mat bowls and enjoyed that and the visit to the Rose & Crown afterwards. Never a heavy drinker, Mick enjoyed the sociability of all three village pubs, recently in the corner seat at the King's Arms.
I wrote a article about the history of Friendly Societies in the Newsletter of October 1991, which ended:
"Here in Elham, the New Inn had a Sick Club (as opposed to a simple Christmas Club) longer than any other local pub, thanks largely to the energy and enthusiasm of Mick Hogben."
I'm glad that I recorded that for posterity, but it is just one example of the extraordinarily unstinting way that Mick gave of his time and talents in the service of our community.
To many of us Mick seemed a most unlikely Father Christmas, but he did the job very well indeed over many years, and both parents and children have fond memories of him in that role. When he was in his Santa costume, Mick couldn't be on the door or at the gate, but at one time if you went to a fête or coffee morning, and Mick wasn't there to take your pennies, you'd wonder what was amiss. As Mick's mobility grew less, this sedentary task seemed ideal for him, but it was never enough for Mick, and if money was needed and when was it not, for the school, the hall, or whatever, he would get himself sponsored and stretch himself to the limit, for instance walking round and round the Gore, when walking itself was a trial.
A full chapel at Barham Crematorium for his funeral was testament to the regard in which he was held by the village. It was good too that he was remembered at the first Elham Farmers' Market of 2011, as he had been its most loyal supporter, right up to the last market of 2010.