THIS weekend’s reunion of 1970s Greenhead College students will be missing one of its stars.
It was confirmed last week that Richard Smith Wilkinson, known as ‘Fang’, died on December 19, 2009.
One of the reunion’s organisers, Becca Thackray, launched an appeal late last year for details of her old friend, a colourful character with a rich turn of phrase and a taste for the finer things in life.
"He performed impromptu slapstick with his mother, Barbara, who had a decorating business in Lindley," said Becca.
"He directed a local film with Nick Mercer, who played Timon in the Lyceum Theatre’s production of The Lion King and Tim Woolgar, who was a child actor in BBC’s Clayhanger.
"Richard also acted in a production of The Crucible.
"His ambitions included watching Wagner’s Ring Cycle and singing in Huddersfield Choral Society."
When Richard and Becca last met, Richard was living in Sowerby Bridge and teaching maths to ex-offenders in Wakefield.
Earlier this year William Kirby from Netherton told us that Richard was his brother Adam’s best friend at school.
He said: "Adam, who now lives in New Zealand, held a 50th birthday party in Huddersfield in 2008 and Richard came to that.
"However, the following year Richard suffered from a heart complaint and Adam visited him in hospital during his annual visit to the UK." Shortly after that, Adam lost contact with his pal.
Probate genealogist John Geddes was the first bearer of bad news.
"I know Richard died in the Halifax registration district in 2009 because I have been involved in trying to find his blood relatives," he said.
"I specialise in tracing missing beneficiaries, hence my involvement.
"It would seem that, according to our research, he was an only child. He was married and divorced with no children. His mother was an only child and his father had one sister who died without issue so there are no relatives to inherit."
Stephen Phillips, of Kindred UK (www.kindreduk.com), a probate genealogy company in Newcastle upon Tyne, specialises in locating heirs to unclaimed estates.
He confirmed the details about Richard’s death.
"His demise came to our attention when a Richard Smith Wilkinson appeared on the Treasury’s Bona Vacantia website,’’ he said. "This is the link: www.bonavacantia.gov.uk/output/ are-you-an-entitled-relative.aspx"
"All the indications are that he is the same man referred to in your article.
"Our research suggests that he has no heirs so we do not intend to take the case any further.
"However, we thought it right that his friends should be informed of the sad news."
Greenhead College ‘girl’ Becca Thackray has lived more of her life in Brixton than in Huddersfield but poignantly says: "I still have millstone grit in my blood."
As well she might. Her mother, Catherine, was a Huddersfield Labour councillor JP and member of the Huddersfield branch of the CND, the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.
She is perhaps best remembered as a Greenham Common activist who went to jail for her belief that siting Cruise missiles on British soil was a crime against humanity. Catherine died in 1997.
From Huddersfield, Becca continued her studies at university in East Anglia followed by Oxford Polytechnic.
"I have worked my way through public services – teaching, policing, nursing, councillor, officiating at funerals, advice worker, administrator," she said.
"I was Lambeth’s Green councillor and am now a nurse in a GP practice."
A number of Greenhead girls who turned 50 in 2009 have already enjoyed two hilarious reunions in London.
These are not necessarily all-female affairs. The girls saw the transition of the girls’ grammar school into a co-ed sixth form college – hence Richard’s involvement with the group.
Several felt there was enough interest in gossiping about old times that one of their number, Judith Frame (nee Netherwood) is setting up a Greenheadians’ website.
If any of these names rings a bell, put 8.30pm, Friday, April 1 at the Junction Inn, Marsh, in the diary.
The former students are then meeting for a Saturday afternoon walk and ending up in the Croppers in Marsh on Saturday evening.