Warm tributes for popular farmer and community champion

Villagers at Somerby and Burrough-on-the-Hill braved rain and winds yesterday (Thursday) to pay their last respects to popular former farmer Bill Fryer as his funeral cortege moved slowly past them.

Friday, 21st May 2021, 2:03 pm
Bill Fryer, wearing his British Empire Medal, who has passed away aged 94 EMN-210521-135510001

Bill, who was awarded the British Empire Medal (BEM) for his services to the community, was buried at St Mary the Virgin Church at Burrough-on-the-Hill, where he had been a churchwarden and where he married his late wife of 52 years, Ena.

Only family members and close friends could attend the service in the small church but Bill’s family were touched by the gesture made by local people on the streets outside.

His daughter, Liz, told the Melton Times: “It was a wet day but there were some real brave souls who came out in the pouring rain to pay their respects to dad in Somerby and Burrough. It was really moving.”

Francis William Fryer, who was always known as Bill, was born in June 1926 at Grange Farm in Somerby, attending the village school and the Boys’ Modern School in Melton before leaving at the age of 14 in the summer of 1940, as the Battle of Britain raged during the Second World War.

He worked on the family farm with dad, Frank, and later joined the Air Training Corp in Melton and the Home Guard in Somerby.

Bill went into partnership with his father on the farm and eventually took over the tenancy, running it until the late 1980s.

He met Ena through the church and the couple were married in May 1953, going on to raise three children on the farm, Sylvia, Chris and Liz.

The farming business was often a struggle with dairy cows, beef cattle and crops keeping him very busy for six days a week.

Sundays were reserved for church at Burrough, where Bill was a churchwarden for 60 years and Ena was the organist for many years.

Bill decided to simplify the business and concentrated on growing and delivering potatoes for local customers, such as domestic homes, fish and chip shops and care homes.

Liz said: “He started delivering potatoes around Melton and Leicester and he really loved that, meeting the customers and having a chat.”

Community was very important to Bill - he was a governor at Burrough School before it closed, served on Somerby Town Estate and was a founding member of Melton Mowbray Lions in 1974.

He was a Lions stalwart for 44 years, supporting many fundraising events and acting as Father Christmas in the Market Place for a number of years.

Bill was awarded the British Empire Medal in 2014 for his unstinting community work and proudly attended a garden party at Buckingham Palace.

On Maundy Thursday 2017, Bill he was also proud to receive maundy money from The Queen at Leicester Cathedral.

After Ena passed away in 2006, Bill enjoyed visiting other people he knew were also on their own.

Bill, who had nine grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren, passed away on May 7, aged 94.

Liz added: “He was a big family man. Very sociable and loved to going to local events. He had lots of friends in Melton and the villages.

“Within the family he liked to be a little bit naughty when we all got together.

“Dad liked to have fun with the grandchildren and he was very, very proud of everyone in the family.”