Memories of the way battle began
I WAS one of the original members of the Association for the Preservation of Arnos Vale Cemetery.
Peter Brain founded the APAC and did ground work for Richard Smith. I knew Arthur Usher and the late Les Owen on the committee and a few others (then in their 30s and 40s like myself at the time).
We raised money through fetes for the cause. My daughter was at primary school and helped with my stall for several years.
I was at least 10 years on the committee and knew both Joyce and Richard Smith after they took over from Peter. We would meet once a month, usually at a local pub and later at The White Heart pub in Brislington (now a Theatre and Art School).
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I was teaching at Withywood Secondary school and arranged for the early APAC logo to be drawn by the talented young students at Merrywood Secondary School.They also drew lots of sketches of the graves which we displayed one Saturday in an exhibition in Totterdown Hall. Peter worked very hard to save the cemetery. We both retired from the committee (me several years after him) due to personal circumstances. In my case my father was diagnosed with cancer. Prior to this my father and my family had joined a group of volunteers on a Saturday with shovels and spades at the top gates of the cemetry. We were ready to start our own 'clear up'. Mr Towner opposed us and because of Health and Safety and legal issues we sadly had to abandon the plan. We continued to raise money to fight him and gradually people like the National Heritage and other cemetery campaigners (ie Highgate and York) were invited to give advice on how best to proceed.
We began to liaise with the city council who regularly sent someone to the meetings.You see, a lot of people became involved in those early years before the name was changed.
A few (Arthur and Les included) continued to stay right through to the end.
I think you should ask for the other members to come forward as I know a lot of hard work and time and effort went into those early years and they worked quietly and modestly in the background with the sole aim of saving their loved ones' graves (my reason for joining!) I don't think they really ever got the recognition they deserved as they kick-started the campaign which for the first few years progressed very slowly due to MrTowner's attitude and reluctance to work with us.
He seemed to be interested merely in the financial profit of the land and had inherited the cemetery as payment for a bad debt. I even attended that first meeting in Totterdown Church which was reported by your newspaper because a little old lady took it upon herself to hit him over the head with her handbag – that's how emotional the topic had become. Of course we are all grateful to Richard and his wife, Joyce, who had the tenacity to finish the job we started.