Tony English tributes: Crewkerne pays tribute to 'inspirational and brilliant' man
The daughter of a Crewkerne stalwart who won the hearts of the town as a member of the local dramatic group has paid tribute to an “inspirational, genuine and brilliant man” following his death.
Tony English died suddenly from a heart attack on Wednesday, January 23, two days after his 66th birthday and just hours before the opening night of the Crewkerne United Dramatic and Operatic Society (CUDOS) production of Ali Baba.
Producer Ann Brolly stepped in for Mr English’s daughter Diana Hodgson, who was due to play the lead role in the run of productions.
But Mrs Hodgson returned later in the week, determined to fulfil her role in her father’s memory.
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On Monday the town said goodbye to Mr English at his funeral, which took place at St Bartholomew’s Church.
Mrs Hodgson said: “He was always smiling, laughing, telling one of his many stories and making those around him feel special.
“He retained his childlike sense of wonder at the world to the end. Several of the younger members of CUDOS have described him in their messages to the family as being like an extra grandad or uncle – a fact that would have affected him deeply. As news spread I received many messages of condolence which describe him as inspirational, genuine, enthusiastic, welcoming, funny, mad and brilliant.
“He was described also as a legend, a gentleman, a truly good soul and a ‘walking cuddle’. It was a comfort to know that the man I knew was the man everyone knew.”
Mr English was born in Chelsea and lived in London until he was seven. At 16 he moved to Cheshire and attended grammar school at Ellesmere Port before starting an engineering apprenticeship in the aircraft industry with de Havilland. In a distinguished career he became chief designer of Sealand Hovercraft, which sold craft all over the world. His designs are among those at the National Hovercraft Museum in Hampshire.
He married his wife Polly in 1975 and moved to Southampton to work for Hovermarine.
There he met ITV producer Tim Edmunds and became resident science expert on the 1980s Saturday morning live TV show No73 where he built Hovercupboard – a hovercraft made out of a wardrobe in which he crossed the Solent with Sandi Toksvig.
Mr English and his family moved to Crewkerne in 1983 and he began working for AgustaWestland in Yeovil.
He took early retirement in 2004 and became a volunteer at the Fleet Air Arm Museum, drove a community bus, and started working on a book about aircraft building between the wars.
He had a passion for photography and drama and with CUDOS he acted, directed, wrote pantomimes, painted scenery and backcloths but was known for actively avoiding dancing and singing.
Members of the dramatic society sang Only You at his funeral and Richard Walters and Ben Hodgson gave touching tributes.
Mr English’s body was interred at Higher Ground Meadows Burial Ground near Corscombe.