Tributes after death of former Gaol manager

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The trustees of the Old Gaol this week paid tribute to the former manager of the landmark building.

John Roberts died last Saturday, aged 58, from bowel cancer.

His funeral service was held in the Oak Chapel at Crownhill Crematorium, Milton Keynes, on Wednesday.

The service was taken by the chaplain of Willen Hospice, where Mr Roberts was cared for in his last weeks.

Born in Gawcottt, John Roberts spent most of his schooldays in Buckingham.

On leaving school, he went to work at W.H. Smith, working at various branches around the country, ending up as asssistant manager and then manager in Buckingham.

After leaving W.H. Smith, he was manager of the Old Gaol, museum and Tourist Information Centre for 15 years, since the museum’s beginnings in 1993.

Old Gaol chairman, Helene Hill, said: “It is with great sadness that we at Buckingham Old Gaol heard the news of the death of John Roberts.

“John worked as part of the team of trustees who guided the Old Gaol through many stages of development and building works to shape it into the success it is today.

“He was instrumental in setting up and running many initiatives within the museum such as school visits, children’s parties, family-friendly Spook Nights and ghost hunt visits.

“The staff and shop volunteers were very fond of John.

“He had a ready smile and word for everyone.

“Since leaving the Old Gaol, John had bravely undergone treatment for bowel cancer and he will be much missed by all his friends.

“Our thoughts are with his family at this sad time.”

Chairman of the Friends of the Old Gaol, Jean Summers, said: “I’ve always had great support from John in the activities and events we’ve run.

“He knew the museum inside and out and took great interest and pride in the museum.

“After he left, we became friends instead of just colleagues.”

Founder-chairman of the Old Gaol, Clive Birch, said: “We employed John as manager at a very early stage of the trust’s life. I can visualise in my mind’s eye now when we met him. Edna Embleton and I interviewed John and we said: ‘We’ve got the right man.’

“John brought all that retail and managerial experience to the job. He was one of those people, if he was asked to do something he got on and did it.

“He was indefatigable, enthusiastic, innovative, hardworking. I can’t speak highly enough of him.

“As a result he became as far as I am concerned a friend.

“Buckingham owes him a great debt of gratitude.”

Mr Roberts leaves his mother Maisie, brother Stephen and sister Margaret.