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Filby villagers turn sleuth to crack riddle of organist’s ‘lost’ life

PUBLISHED: 15:56 02 November 2012

Current Filby church organist Margaret Crouch (centre)  researching the mystery of Humphrey Walpole the past organist's life and fundraising to get headstone at his unmarked grave.  Susan Smith and Lesley Johnson also pictured.      Picture: James Bass

Current Filby church organist Margaret Crouch (centre) researching the mystery of Humphrey Walpole the past organist's life and fundraising to get headstone at his unmarked grave. Susan Smith and Lesley Johnson also pictured. Picture: James Bass

Archant Norfolk Photographic © 2012

A GROUP of friends from Filby are looking to unlock the mystery of the life of a man who sparked their love of music.

All that remains of Humphrey Walpole is an unmarked, unattended grave in the churchyard of All Saints Church in Filby, on Church Lane.

Mr Walpole had been the organist of the church in the first half of the last century. Born in 1877, he died in 1953 having taught many people to play the piano and organ.

The current organist of All Saints Church, Margaret Crouch, 73, who lives in Caister, has got together with fellow music-loving friends to make sure the man, who they respected yet knew little about having been children when he was alive, is remembered.

They have been fundraising for a headstone for his grave and are researching into his life and family for a booklet to be displayed in the church.

Margaret, who has been organist for 41 years and taught piano for a career, said: “My friends and I were chatting one coffee morning and Humphrey came up. We realised we did not know where he was buried.

“I was a piano pupil of his, he introduced me to music and it has been my life. He was very popular, great with children and was much loved.

“My friends found where his grave was, and it was overgrown and unmarked. It shouldn’t be that way.”

Margaret first met Mr Walpole at the age of seven when she thought the organ music came from the roof of the church.

Her mother took her to meet Mr Walpole in the organist’s room, and she became so fascinated with the music she became his pupil.

“He was a great teacher, he had a way with children and a vivid imagination, which he passed onto me, as well as the love of music.”

Now Margaret - along with friends Joan Saul, Lesley Johnson and Sue Smith, wants to find out how many other people he taught, and if anyone remembers him.

They know he never married, and lived with his sister, who also remained single. He also ran a market garden stall on Great Yarmouth Market.

They have traced a distant relative of his in Scotland, but want to know more to be able to pay tribute to the man. They have raised £670 through jumble sales and other activities and have now commissioned a headstone for his grave.

“We thought there should be something to commemorate him in the church, and we will have a dedication ceremony, probably next year,” she added.

“I wonder if Mercury readers can help me?”

Anyone with information can contact Margaret on 01493 720 497.

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