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Issue No. 79 [Back Issues]
17th January 2006

This Week - [Bill Harris - Champion Vanessa - Ross Country Music - Ross Live 2006 - Eerie Views - Letters]
[Can you help Macmillan - Topical Photography - Whilst it is quiet - Bethan Dawes - Rugby]
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Mr William Seymour Harris
1916 - 2006

William Seymour Harris was born in Cardiff May 17th, 1916 and died Hereford January 5th 2006. He was 89. He was the only son of Cardiff chemist Arthur Harris who had a shop in Queen Street, and Elsye (nee Lewis). Bill's only sister - Joan, now aged 86, lives at Ross Court. The family lived in Richmond Road.

Bill attended Cardiff High School, and matriculated with honours. He also played tennis, cricket and rugby for the school. He decided to become a civil engineer and was in Ministry of Transport in Cardiff and in London before the war. During the thirties he enjoyed holidays in Europe with his mother. He took cinefilm of the Nazis marching in Czechoslovakia. Bill joined up before WW2 as a driver in the Royal Engineers and was soon offered a commission.

He met Margaret Griffiths in the Welsh Club in London (it was the only time either of them ever went there!) They were married in Cardiff in 1940 when Bill was a Captain. He was in the Bomb Disposal unit and involved in dealing with bombs during the London blitz. He went to Normandy six days after D day. His final rank was Major and he was awarded an MBE for his military service.

After the war Bill worked for Buckinghamshire and Hertfordshire County Councils. In the 1950s he became chief engineer in charge of the roads in Baghdad. He and Margaret enjoyed a great social life there with friends of all nationalities.

Bill was the star of many amateur productions at the British Alwiyah club. While in Iraq he was able to indulge his great interest in archaeology with visits to places like Babylon and Nineveh. After a revolution in Iraq, ( a hairy moment) Bill went to work for the government in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia - where the road developments had to share cash with the Emperor's lions!

Bill had many audiences with Haile Selassie who liked to control everything. While in Addis there was a another hairy moment with an attempted coup de'tat.

In 1960 Bill went to work in Borneo, where he was putting a road through the jungle. Sometimes the very hospitable, but formerly headhunting Dyaks suggested they should have a 'head' for the road to put in their net in the longhouse! Margaret was not well in Borneo so Bill decided not to renew his contract and he went to work in London first in Leytonstone and then in Southwark, where he became a regular visitor to the Oval to watch cricket.

After his retirement he and Margaret looked for a friendly place to live and found Ross-on-Wye in 1983. They enjoyed a busy social life and Bill was able to enjoy gardening and they had many holidays abroad together.

Margaret died in 1989. After that Bill still went to the pub and enjoyed the family visits and the company of his grandchildren, Lisa an Marcus and great grandson Connor. His daughters, Chris and Elizabeth travelled with him and Margaret except when they were incarcerated for a time at boarding school. Chris edits The Ross Gazette and Liz, who lives with her husband Barry in London, works in the planning department at Wandsworth Council.

Champion Vanessa!

Congratulations to Vanessa Brann, who became champion for her third year in succession at the Herefordshire Cross Country Championships. The Championships were held at Hereford Race Course on Sunday.

Two years running, John Kyrle High School student, Vanessa became the under thirteens' champion and this year she won by a clear 100 metres to become the under fifteens' champion, with John Kyrle High School's Kelsey Swift taking second place.

Wyenot News would like to wish Vanessa luck at the Hereford Schools Championships, which take place next Monday, 23rd January.

Ross Country Music Festival 2006

Ross-on-Wye's fourth Country Music Festival will take place between Friday, 7th and Sunday, 9th July this year. This successful event enables funds to be raised for St. Michael's Hospice and last year raised £1,500.00 for the cause over three days which were bathed in sunshine.

This year's open air event will be hosted at Ross Rowing Club, where there are wonderful river views, grassy walks and easy access to both shops in town and the Wye Valley.

Ross Country Music Club meets monthly at Ross Sports Centre with a different guest artist appearing at each event. Further details of both the monthly meetings and the festival can be seen on the 'What's On?' page or can be obtained by calling Colin Gray on 01989 567995.

Ross Live 2006

'Ross Live!' will be putting together a wonderful 'Holy Week' concert for 2006, which will take place at 7.30 pm on Tuesday, 11th April in the parish church of St Mary's, Ross. Christian Sturm - tenor, will be taking part, as will Katharine Hawnt - soprano and Will Burn - bass. The trio, who took part in last summer's Bastien und Bastiene and Dido and Aeneas can be seen below. Counter tenor, Ben Turner will also be appearing. Ben comes from Bromyard, and is currently a lay clerk in the choir of Westminster Abbey.

The programme is The Passion According to St Mark (1713) by Reinhard Keiser (1674 - 1739,) sung in English to a translation by Kate Fawcett based on the words of the King James Bible. This is probably the first performance to this translation to take place in England. Christian Sturm will be singing the Evangelist and William Burn, Jesus Christ. The choir is the Ross-on-Wye Baroque singers directed by David Backhouse

This is to be followed by the hauntingly beautiful Stabat Mater (1736) by Giovanni Pergolesi (1710 - 1736), which will be sung by Katharine and Ben. The orchestra is The Musical and Amicable Society Baroque Orchestra, who will be playing period instruments, directed from the harpsichord by Martin Perkins.

Tickets cost 15 reserved or 10 unreserved and are now on sale, initially from The County Collection, 1 Market Place. For further information, please call 01989 563883 (daytime) or 01989 730439 (evenings).

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Eerie January Views

Whilst out walking with Eric, the dog at around 00:30 am last Tuesday I was rather taken by the beautiful view of Ross from the Rope Walk, with an eerie mist rising from the river. Murphy's Law unfortunately came into its own at the time as I did not have my camera bag with me. I didn't think I would be needing it at that time of night and it's a heavy lump to carry around. I must have the strongest left shoulder in Ross!

Hurrying Eric on his way however, I rushed home and fetched it, returning to the scene in the Wyenot Mobile. (Which incidentally still has party string attached from where I parked by the market on New Year's Eve and smells worse inside than the giraffe house at London Zoo, from where I drove into a flood to take a photo a month before Christmas and went a little too far, flooding the inside an inch deep with muddy river water. If I get time, I'll clean it this week.)

The really nice view had faded by the time I returned at 1:00 am with camera and tripod, but I still managed to catch the two shots below, using time exposure.

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Hi Alan, Pete contacted me last night, full of praise for your site. He reads it every week. Apparently I am the second person you have reunited with Pete. Keep up the good work!


Alan Thomas

Reuniting Wye Valley Friends and Family

One of the side effects this web site has had over the years is that it has put many hundreds of old friends, all around the world back in touch with one another. Alan and Pete, above are another example of two Ross-on-Wye ex-patriots reuniting via their common interest in Reading Wyenot News and in fact, Alan is the second old friend the web site has reunited with Pete.

If you are looking for a lost friend or family member, you are always welcome to write to me and I will put details on the weekly news pages.

The reason this web site works very well in most aspects is because, due to the constant high web site maintenance level, the domain '' has built up a very strong 'Google Importance Rating'. Those who are mentioned on this web site for one reason or another become more easily findable. Don't worry - despite this, your privacy is absolutely safe. Unless specifically asked to do so, I never publish your contact details and I never pass them directly to those writing in and asking for them. When somebody writes in asking for a person's contact details, I contact the person being sought first, asking if they wish to be found.

It may take weeks, months or even years but if you are trying to find a local friend or family member with whom you have lost contact - here is the place to do it. I do not charge a fee - it is just one of those useful side-effects of Wyenot News.


On my own 'contact' page there is currently a note concerning genealogists. It is not that I do not like genealogists. I can get on with most people and was even known to have a friend in Romford once. The trouble is - because I have a web site about Ross-on-Wye and the Wye Valley people automatically assume that I know everything and everybody, living or dead, within a 100 mile radius. Ten page emails, in five point type, describing the 'Longbottom-Smithe' lineage in intricate detail do nothing to inspire my enthusiasm and I do not automatically know whether or not, six times great grandfather, 'Godfrey Longbottom-Smithe' owned a dog called 'Sydney'.

I will always try to help but please try to remember that having a local information and community web site does not automatically make me the fount of all human knowledge. As a rule of thumb - if the answer to your Wye Valley question is not already mentioned somewhere on this web site, I do not know the answer off the top of my head. There is a huge amount of information here, most of which is accessible via the index or else searchable via the 'search site' facility on the home page. Please try these two options first and then if you really cannot find what you are looking for, sending a concise, clear and preferably polite query for publication here might bring you a result. No guarantees but it usually works - eventually.

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