Forest of Dean & Wye Valley

OBITUARY: Ralph Anstis

In A.Graham, Obiturary on April 9, 2010 at 2:54 pm

Ralph Anstis, who died in February 2010 aged 89, was an adopted Forester – but he did more than most to record the history of the Dean, its people and the events that shaped their lives.

I have many of his books on cluttered bookshelves, and they’re always a useful point of reference – as well as a pleasure to read. He wrote the definitive biography of Warren James (whose life is being commemorated at the beginning of June this year).

His fact-based novel Let the Hero be the Hungry Man was adapted as a play, and performed in Parkend. He also wrote Blood on Coal, an account of the long and bitter minders’ strike of 1929 and the impact it made on those who worked in the Forest coalfield.

He was a prolific writer, turning out book after book from his own imprint ‘Albion House’. His wife, Bess was also a stalwart of the Forest of Dean Local History Society, and I’m sure must have shared in much of the research that went into Ralph’s books.

Both of them were supporters of the Clarion, and occasional contributors to our columns. Bess’s last piece in the Clarion was a reminiscence of the Co-Op as she remembered it in her younger days. It was published in the summer of 2005. She was already in poor health, and sadly she died the following year.

Ralph was born in London, worked in the civil service, and he and Bess moved to the Forest in 1979. Apart from his writing, he involved himself in the local community. He served on the West Dean Parish Council, was a governor of two local schools and became a volunteer Press Officer for Forest Stop the War (the local contingent aligned with the national Stop the War movement opposing the 2003 invasion on Iraq). Like many of us, he learned to love the Forest, both for its peace and its people.

But after the death of Bess, his own health also went into decline and finally he was forced to move from his home in Coalway to be nearer his family. He died in a retirement home in Epsom and his funeral service took place in Leatherhead.

Ralph was a quiet, softly spoken and unassuming man, but one who tackled his research and writing with dedication. Those of us who have our homes in the Forest owe him a great debt for recording and illuminating the lives of those who’d helped shape the communities we take for granted today.

Thanks, Ralph.
AG

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