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John Suter 1907 - 1998
In the various pages of the history of Suters Ltd you will find information about John Suter.
John Suter was the youngest son of George William Suter and was born in Ledbury, Herefordshire where the original Suter Drapers shop was located. (Early photos of John Suter in Ledbury here) He was educated at Colet Court and St Pauls School in London.
In a letter to Tom Suter - 20th July 1993 John wrote "I can now answer details which you asked for.
(1) I was apprenticed to Journey Men Tailors - Lester and Stevens of Carnaby Street, London W1 from 1927 to 1929.
(2) Prior to that I was with John Barker & Co Ltd at High street Kensington W4 from Decembwee 1925 to March 1927."
Left: John's brother Clarence and wife Maud at the wedding
He was married to Bobbie and had four children (a fifth Donald died as an infant) Wendy-Ann (whose husband Richard Ensor has written the "A Family Business Suters Ltd" on this site), Dick (Richard), Robert and Philip
John received his call up papers in June 1942 at the age of 36. He was to be one of those required for 'the enormous Air Force'. In September 1941 Churchill had estimated that a million men would be needed and while age restrictions applied to flight crew many more were needed in ground support.
Like Frank, John had plenty of warning but, unlike Frank, he was instructed to report for basic RAF training in Yarmouth.
In June 1942 I was called up and joined the RAF. I had failed to obtain a direct commission so went through the ranks, square bashing at Yarmouth, Radar course at Cranwell, then posted to Houghton Regis near Luton. I was able to get home every third day for 24 hours, this was real enjoyment for Bobbie, Wendy-Ann, Richard and me, as well as Papa and Nana Milner. John Suter Autobiography
Given his family commitments John would have been happy to have been called up into the RAF where it was likely that he would be assigned to a support role and there was a good chance that he might see out the war on one of the very large number of air bases or radar stations in East Anglia or the midlands. After initial training he was able to get home from time to time and there are photographs of his children enjoying his presence on a short leave and parading in his 'forage cap' (below).
As soon as she knew John was to be called up, Bobbie insisted that there be an alternative to the Anderson shelter constructed in the garden. While there were no air raids after the big one in May 1941 they might start again and she was not taking any chances while John was away. The breakfast room/school room/playroom was strengthened with a framework of steel pillars, joists and sheeting to create what was in essence an outsize 'Morrison shelter' [a steel refuge 'cage' made for use indoors and named after Herbert Morrison who became Home Secretary in 1941.
Towards the end of 1942, John was at Houghton Regis near Luton and within easy reach of Uxbridge. He had been trained in radar and probably could look forward to a quiet, if not particularly challenging, life for the remainder of the war. However, the prospect did not appeal and both 'Bobbie' and his parents in law supported him when he decided to apply for a commission.
I had applied for a commission and eventually went to RAF Cosford where I was commissioned, then to Grange-over-Sands, Lancs for an equipment course. John Suter Autobiography
'Bobbie' and John had realised that a commission for John could make a more distant posting likely. In the event, he was selected for embarkation duties in Scotland. During the war, it took a long time to travel from Scotland to London. Trains were slow, dirty and very crowded. The complaints of 21st Century Inter City travellers are a joke compared with what was normal in war time. Also, there was no alternatives. No air travel except for RAF on duty, no private cars, hire cars limited to a maximum journey of 20 miles, and no long distance buses. Nevertheless a long weekend leave came up every now and again and it was, then, just about worthwhile for John to come down to see 'Bobbie' and the children for a few hours before setting off back.
Shortly after the entry of the United States into the war, in early 1942, a "Combined Chiefs of Staff Committee" was established in Washington and as the British Chiefs of Staff had to live close to their own government it was agreed that they be represented by senior officers stationed in Washington. As the war developed the need for British representation and support staff increased and by 1944 there was a substantial flow of military, naval and RAF personnel back and forth across the North Atlantic. The RAF maintained Embarkation units in both Scotland and New York and the war changed dramatically for John when he was transferred from the Edinburgh embarkation unit to New York.
I was … posted to RAF Embarkation Unit in New York in April 1944. This was a wonderful experience and I learned a lot from my stay there. I met Leslie Smith and he and I made a friendship that lasted for 40 years. He died in 1989. John Suter Autobiography
For John, the war had brought the opportunity for foreign travel to a country more or less untouched by the hardships suffered routinely at home. This made him privileged compared with servicemen like his brother Frank in Italy let alone those waiting to go to France, but he had no say in the destination, and, very sensibly decided to make the most of every minute! It was also the country which had impressed Arthur in 1923 and to which his sister Winifred had travelled on holiday in the late 1920's.
After the war John Suter returned to the family business in 1946. He was involved in both Uxbridge and Slough branches and he was the last Chairman of Suters Ltd before it was sold to Owen Owen in 1978.
According to Robert Suter in 2017 talking about his father working at Slough and Uxbridge stores "I first went to Thorpe House School in the summer term of 1949, when I was 5 3/4, for the mornings only. We were still living in Uxbridge and I used to come by bus with Wendy-Ann (at St. Mary's) and Dick, (also at Thorpe House), who would make sure that I was "delivered" to the school. Papa (John) would then pick me up at the end of the morning, on his way from Suters in Slough. I believe that we would then have lunch at Eastnor Lodge and then Papa would go to Suters in Uxbridge for the afternoon session."
When the family moved to Gerrards Cross John used to work in Uxbridge in the morning and come back home for lunch and then go to Slough in the afternoom.
Harry Ponton receives 25 year long service award at Suters Ltd. In the photo are left to right Clarence (John's brother) Dick / Richard (John's eldest son) Frank (John's brother) Harry Ponton, David (John's nephew and brother of Tom who wrote Suters Limited - A brief History of the company and the people behind it ) and John Suter
John Suter's father in law, Frederick (Fred) Milner was an insurance broker based in Cheapside in the City of London. His business was F.M.Milner & Co and after living in Slough moved with his wife Wilhelmina to Lichfield next to Eastnor Lodge between Uxbridge and Ickenham on the Swakelys Road till he passed away in the late 1940s. He was also involved in the Freemason movement.
Women Wear Less - But have more dresses - Evolution of the Drapery Trade - My job talk report in the Middleex Advertiserr Friday 5th March 137 for the Uxbridge Rotarians by John Suter (Click on image to enlarge)
1948 John Suter and The Uxbridge Rotary Club
John Suter had been a member of the Uxbridge Rotary Club since 1934 and during 1947 to 48 was Club President. Bobbie Suter was not interested in the all ladies "Inner Wheel Club" which was provided for the wives of Rotarians and had never joined. Nevertheless, she supported John whenever there were Rotary functions.
Sadly, John's year as President and the previous year when he was senior Vice President coincided with her pregnancy and the birth and, a few months later, the death of Donald. This meant that she could not go with John to any of the key functions during these years - a great disappointment to him.
There is a Middlesex Press photo (Above left) of John Suter presenting a box of food - probably supplied by the Rotary Club - to a woman in Uxbridge at about this time.
John's presidential address to the Uxbridge Rotary Club in July was reported in the Middlesex Advertiser under the headline "Rotary, Freedom, Democracy"
…… Mr Suter reviewed the work of the various [Rotary] committees and commented on the useful tasks they had undertaken. Referring to the Rotary publications he said that if all Rotarians and the rest of the community could carry out even half the suggestions made in them there would not be the need for the controls to which they were subjected at the present time.
"Most controls are placed on us because there were certain individuals who want an exorbitant profit when things are scarce. These people have no sense of decency at all" he said.
Speaking of the work of the Community Service Committee there was one aspect of communal life they might study - that of civic responsibilities.
"Unfortunately the tone of local government has become political", he added, "and you may remember that the last two by-elections of the local council were run on party lines. It is only a thought on my part but I feel any Rotarian who is willing to serve on the council on a non-party ticket would be doing a great service.."
In view of the recent happenings in world affairs he considered the work of the International Services Committee of the greatest importance.
They had learned of the changed conditions in Czechoslovakia where democracy had perished. Few of them seemed to realise the value of freedom of speech, thought and action until they had been taken away.
One of the bastions of democracy must be the link up of all the English-speaking nations and those freedom loving peoples of the world still outside the Communist bogy and that bastion must be the United Nations organisation of which he would like to see every nation a member.
"Let us cut out all the 'isms' and dictatorships and think only of democracy to develop the four freedoms of the Atlantic Charter", he declared.
UN must be supported to the bitter end and must not be allowed to fail as the League of Nations did before 1939. Rotary which was a great international movement, could help as could everyone. ….
National Savings Committee - John Suter was involved with the Borough Savings Committe in Middlexex for the National Savings. In 1974 he was unable to attend a meeting and receive a Long Service Badge for twenty five years service (image to left above) and received a letter of appreciation fro0m the District6 Commissioner - Richard Newton - Click on Image below
Rotary Club of Uxbridge, Middlesex in 1954 - John Suter in middle row 4th from left - The Uxbridge club was founded in 1932
Back Row: E.A. Wilkes - J.L. Birkett - B.A. Leno - H.C. Pearson - J.H.J. Hutchings - C.D. Hayes - C.H. Tranter - Bennett Coles - W.H. Kennedy - L.H. Jennings
Middle Row: J. Poole - C.E. Lunn - F.C.J. Bartlett - J. D. Suter - R.L. O'Higgins - L.H. Crossley - A. K. Gibbs - G. L. Gibbs - J.Nicholls - F. H.C. Mills - P.J. Walding - J.J.B. Wolfe - A.H. Randall - G.C Collins
Front Row: J. Miles - A.E. Pardington - A. Wade - J.H. Miles - F.C Sabin - H.E. C. Stripp - R.J. Hughes - D.F.W. O'Connell - E.E. Chaney
With grateful thanks to Simon Nash in June 2019 for providing another copy of this 1954 group and being able to identify the members in the photos.
Click on images below to enlarge
According to Richard Ensor's Suter family History - John had been a member of the Uxbridge Rotary Club since 1934 and had even managed to keep in touch while away during the War in the America. He had, also, visited Uxbridge's sister town of Uxbridge, Massachusetts in May 1945 a visit which was reported in a local paper in Uxbridge, Middlesex shortly afterwards. As a returning serviceman member John must have been approached and asked to become President of the Uxbridge Rotary Club almost as soon as he arrived home.
He was President in the Year 1947 to 1948 and this means that he would have served as Vice President from 1946 to 1947. While Vice President, John became involved in the establishment of a "daughter" Rotary Club for Gerrards Cross and Chalfont St. Peter. While the Gerrards Cross business and professional people most heavily involved in establishing the new Club - which like all Rotary Clubs would have one member representing each of a number of "classifications" included John Payne who was the Vicar at St James's Church, Gerrards Cross (and would represent Religion - Established Church) and Eric Segrove who was a Director of the largest local building company, Y. J. Lovell (Construction industry) it is probably no coincidence that the representative medical doctor chosen was Norman Creighton who had a practice on the West Common in Gerrards Cross and whose wife, Jean, had lived in Harefield Road, Uxbridge before her marriage.
John may, also, have met the man approached to fill the Education "classification" who was the new Principal of the Emergency Teachers Training College which was opened in April by the Minister of Education. His name was Howard Ensor and he had been appointed towards the end of the previous year and moved into a cottage in Newland Park with his family in January. (Howard Ensor was the father of Richard Ensor and father-in-law of John's daughter Wendy-Ann)
Boston is about 30 miles from Uxbridge, Massachusetts and it may be that this was the time John visited the Rotary Club in that town. An undated press cutting has survived from an unidentified newspaper:
Ft-Lieut John D Suter, who has been on service in the USA with the RAF for the past year, writes to say that he has found time to visit Uxbridge Mass. He managed to contact some Rotarians, who showed him the town, which he says is smaller and more truly rural than Uxbridge. He saw a letter of Christmas greetings from Uxbridge, Middlesex, and was most intrigued to see his own signature amongst a number of prominent Uxbridge citizens in an illuminated address which was sent to Uxbridge, Mass some time ago.
A short 'profile' of John included in 'Rotary Contact' - the Magazine of No 9 District R.I.B.I. - the local grouping of Rotary Clubs for administrative purposes to which John's Uxbridge Club belonged, also, referred to the visit:While in America he made further contact with our sister town of Uxbridge, Mass. where he was given a royal reception by the Rotary Club there. - Rotary Contact - August 1948
Many members of the local business community were members over the years - Eric Wilkes from Youngs and Wade insurance brokers, Fred Stagg from Martin Clarke Insurance, Leslie Dobbin from Miles Motors, Will Try from W S Try Builders and his son John Try, Eric Hinds from F H Hinds Jewellers, Bill Bucklede Buckeldee and Taylor TV and Radio, Estate Agent David Routledge of Hofsten Routledge Estate Agents. Also Raymond Puddifoot and John Clemence.
(This image does not enlarge) Left: John Suter helping at the Uxbridge Auto Show in the 1990's with grandson Donal. He would normally be based in the information caravan
In a letter to Tom Suter - 20th July 1993 John wrote "On Friday, Saturday and Sunday - yesterday, the Rotary Club held its' tenth Auto Show at Uxbridge, over 7000 people came on Sunday the main day, to see over 1000 Vintage and well cared for cars, plus side shows, trade stands etc. We reckon to raise £10,000 plus if the weather is fine, all for charity, NSPCC will be one the main beneficaries. Billy Buckeldee the friend who stayed with you recently was there, Billy was helping like the other members.
I was there for the four days, but I find myself easier jobs than previously. I cannot do the hard physical stuff, I can hold a tape so that the fellow at the other end knocks in the post., but using a heavy hammer or mallet tires me too much, but making tea or other light jobs is right up my street."
John Suter, who has been a member of the Uxbridge club for the last 55 years, received the Paul Harris Award from the Uxbridge president John Clemence on Friday.
The award is named after the founder of the worldwide Rotary movement and is presented for outstanding service and dedication.
Mr Suter, who was preseident of the club in 1949, said "It was quite a surprise. It is going to take place of honour in my home"
He has been involved in many fund raising events and was also responsible for the collection of money for the Rotary Club's savings group.
In 1920 John's father George with John's brother Clarence opened the first Suter's department store in Slough.
By 1924 they had opened another store in Uxbridge High Street on the corner of Windsor Street with the help of John's other brothers Atrhur and Frank.
The shop, now Owen Owen, moved to its present site next to Woolworth in 1929.
In 1930, John Suter joined the family business as a buyer and was responsible for the men's shoe departments at Uxbridge and Slough.
Finally he became chairman for six years until the company was sold in 1978 to Owen Owen.
At one time there were also stores in Ruislip High Street, Windsor and Ashford.
Mr Suter, who lived in Swakelys Road, Ickenham, for 17 years, said "I liked the people of Uxbridge, they were more personal in those days. I used to know many of the customers by name. The same applied when we went to the bank".
He now lives at Meadway Park, Gerrards Cross." Source: Uxbridge and West Drayton Gazette Wednesday, November 1, 1989
Robert Suter said in an email to his younger brother Philip in November 2018 "Papa would have been totally unaware of this occaison, had I not mentioned it to him, over our lunch on the Monday before the Investiture, the following Friday - He said in his 'thankyou speech' that "It was quite a shock and took me a few moments to realise what he (the President) was saying. I was grateful for that information, otherwise I should be really flustered if you were going to present it to me just like that." At the beginning of his response, he said "Mr President, fellow Rotarians, visitors and members of my family", so Dick may have been there.
It was after (Bobbie) Boo Boo had passed away (as he also referred to President Leslie Plumb investing him with the Fifty Year award in 1984). I was at Brent Cross by then but may have been there as a former Rotarian. Wendy-Ann is not sure if she were present" - Philip is not 100% sure if he was there that day. He was working locally based at Iver / Richings Park at Frank Farr letting and estate agents and did join his father occasionally at the Rotary Club on a Friday at The Civic Centre in Uxbridge.
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(This image does not enlarge) This Uxbridge Rotary Club monthly bulletin from late 1995 was found in Dick Suter's possesions after his death in 2013.
John Suter 88 We celebrated John's 88th birthday recently, he had been an acyive member since 1934. 61 years must be some sort of record, for unlike some of those of this great age John is still very active and takes part in all our club events. He is our Almoner, a job which he takes very seriously, regularly phoning and visiting our sick members. He has contributed a note of impressionsof Rotary during the last 60 Years.
"When I came away from the Rotary lunch on Friday your editor asked me to write about my experiences of 61 years in the Uxbridge Club.
Our President John Simmons had previously asked the members to join him in proposing my health after my 88th birthday on 11th October and I was indeed honoured for him to do that. Then as I went to get into my car Leslie Dobin said he thought the standard of behaviour these days had fallen during the latter part of this century. In some ways he could be right, but we had bad people in my earlier life as we have now.
I was inducted in 1934 by Peter Kay. He was a director of Lowe and Shawyer, the celebrated flower growers of daffodils, tulips, carnations and chrysanthemums, these blooms were selected and sent to Covent Garden and other parts of the United Kingdom each day. Brunel University is built on the flower nursery now.
All of us were more formal then, we used to address each other by the surname not by the first or christian name as we do now, which is more free and easy that way and I think possibly better.
Rotary is more involved in running affairs now than when I first joined. It is true Sydney Try and Bob Hughes strarted the Old Folks Party in 1936, which got the Community Service off the ground. The International Service Committee was not very active. It had the contact with the Uxbridge Rotary Club in Massachusetts, USA but that was all; today that committee is involved with Water Aid inter continental club visits and other activities.
The present Vocational Service Committee is no longer the Cinderella that is was when I was a member of it, both before the war and in the immediate post war years. It is quite virile now we visit organisations to study them.
The Club Council used to operate the Club Service Committee, but when it was separated in the 60's it went from strength to strength.
I have forgotten the year when the Fund Raising Committee was formed, but since the advent of the Auto Show each year, we have been able to donate large sums of money to charity. Before that came into action our fund raising efforts were very small.
The Foundation Committee as well as Youth with Rotaract have helped with young projects. These have helped with youth exchange, V.S.O. and sending exceptional students to read subjects at universities throughout the world. All worth while. These young people are wonderful ambassadors to establish world peace which must be on the minds of most of us. When I came back from the forces after World War 11, I said in my presidential address that this country must not disarm as in 1920; we have kept a small but very effective armed force, we have been on the best of terms with our friends in the U.S.A. and the cold war has ended, for which we must be very thankful.
The Uxbridge Club has always been very selective in its choice of members, we started off well, and have had over the years very few resignations.
Most members are very keen on the movement, and our turnover of resignations was much lower than most clubs in the area or UK.
There has been an enormous growth of evening clubs in the U.K. l believe it is the same in the U.S., so many young excectives cannot spare the time in the day to attend a lunch meeting, prefering sandwiches whilst working, but they have more freedom of an evening, the meetings may be longer, more liquid consumed, yet the clubs do get projects completed.
I have enjoyed my time in Rotary, I have met a lot friends, and valued their friendship. It is a wondeful movement, non-political, non-religous, no colour or race bar, and that makes life all that easier.
Your Editor asked me for an aricle of about 300 words, I think this one is double, but it is a difficult job to condense, I hope the members will enjoy it, I have enjoyed writing it. John Suter
Above: John Suter celebrating his 90th birthday at the Colston Hall, Gerrards Cross, October 1997
The longest serving Rotarian in Uxbridge is resolved to continue with his charity work at the age of 90.
John Suter, who has just celebrated his birthday, remains ann active member of Uxbridge Rotary Club, which he joined in 1934.
He was cub president in 1948-49. Mr Suter said"I have got a lot of pleasure from being a member of the Rotary Club and hope I have helped a lot of people."
In 1989 he received the Rotary's Paul Harris Award - its highest honour for carrying out National Savings collections for 100 Rotarians and their relatives for about 20 years.
He worked for family department store Suter's with branches in Uxbridge High Street and Slough, for more than 40 years. He was chairman for six years until the firm was bought by Owen Owen in 1978.
His father, George, opened stores i Slough in 1920 and Uxbridge in 1924. John Suter's three brothers, Clarence, Frank and George (Arthur ), who was mayor of Uxbridge in 1959-60 were also partners in the business.
He said "We concentrated on the personal touch and a lot of people got to know me. I still see many of our former customers".
Born in Ledbury, Herefordshire, Mr Suter worked with two London tailors before joining the family business, taking responsibility for men's and boy's wear at the two branches.
He lived in Uxbridge for 20 years until moving to Gerrards Cross in 1950.
He has four children, nine grandchildren and six great-grandchildren. Irene (Bobbie) his wife for 57 years died in 1990.
Mr Suter likes watcjing sport and is a member of Middlesex County Cricket Club, and enjoys snooker, cards and gardening. "I am still reasonably active and I hope to keep in good health" he said. Source Uxbridge Gazette - Wednesday 29 October 1997
John Suter was a great cricket fan and was a member of Middlexexx County Cricket Club and used to regularly attend matches at Lords and Uxbridge in the last few years if his life.
Philip Suter remembers that his father John would be part of the transport team for what was known as "The Old Folks Party" This would have been an evening out with food and entertainment. On many occasions rhe "old folks" were actually much younger than he was!
(The image to left and below does not enlarge) Middlesex County Cricket Club and Rotary International car badges that John Suter had on the front of his car. For many years he had an "Old Pauline" - St Pauls School car badge, unfortunately that was stolen (on left of image to left above "84")
Death of John Suter - 11th September 1988
Buckinghamshire Advertiser A long serving Rotarian and popular Gerrards Cross resident has died, aged 90. John Suter, former chairman of the family department store Suters in Slough and Uxbridge, died peacefully at The Nuffield Nursing Home in Wexham last week with his family at his bedside.
His daughter Wendy-Ann Ensor says everyone will remember her father as a "real gentleman". He was a very active man, he was driving around Gerrards Cross in his BMW until two weeks ago, and only recently was taking out the elderly and handicapped for day trips" she said. Mr Suter became ill suddenly last week and developed bronchial pneumonia before he passed away on Friday Go to The Buckinghamshire Advertiser report here to read this in full.
Slough Express John Suter, former chairman of Slough and Uxbridge died at the Nuffield Nursing Home, Wexham, on Friday aged 90. A long term Rotarian he was born in Ledbury, Herefordshire, the youngest of five children. He was educated at St Paul's School in London from 1921 to 1925 and joined the family business after training in London. In 1932 he married Irene (Bobbie) Margaret Milner and they enjoyed 57 years oh happiness, most of which were spent at Gerrards Cross until her death in 1990. Go to The Slough Express report here to read this in full.
Old Pauline Magazine (St Paul's School) John Dack Suter (1921-25) He died after a short illness last September, just before his 91st birthday. After Colet Court he entered Colet House when Cecil Smith was house master, and played in the school's 3rd XI cricket and 3rd XV rugby teams. During the war he served in the RAF leaving 1946 with rank of flight lieutenant and spent most of his life working in the family department store business. He was chairman of the Slough and Uxbridge based company for six years. A dedicated member of the Uxbridge Rotary Club for many years, he was its president in 1948. Go to The Old Pauline Magazine report here to read this in full.\\\ x
Slough Midweek Observer A former chairman of Suters of Slough - now Alders - has died peacefully at Wexham aged 90. John Suter, who worked for more than 40 years in the family business died at the Nuffield Nursing Home on Friday September 11. For six years he was chairman of Suters prior to Owen Owen purchasing the company in 1978; he was also a long term Rotarian.Go to The Slough Midweek Observer report here to read this in full.
Uxbridge Gazette The former chairman of family business Suters has died a month before his 91st birthday. John Suter (Pictured) who lives in Uxbride til 1948, died peacefully in the early hours of Friday at the Nuffield Nursing Home in Wexham. He worked for the family department store, Suters Ltd, which had branches in Slough and Uxbridge for more than 40 years from the 1930s.
He was chairman of the board for six years, until it was taken over by Owen Owen in 1978. Uxbridge MP John Randall who owns the family business Randalls in Vine Street, Uxbridge said: "John Suter was a distinguished gentleman, one of a disappearing breed. He was part of Uxbridge's history. He was always very cheerful, and will be missed by the many people he's come in contact with from his days an Uxbridge businessman to his years of service for voluntary and charitable works". Go to The Uxbridge Gazette report here to read this in full.
Uxbridge Leader One of the longest serving members of Uxbridge Rotary Club and a well known local businessman John Suter, has died a month short of his 91st birthday. Mr Suter joined Rotary in 1934, was president from 1948-49 and was still attending the Friday lunches at Uxbridge Civic Centre until earlier this month. He worked for the family department store Suters Ltd, which had branches in Slough and Uxbridge, for more than 40 years from the 1930s. He was chairman of the board for six years, until it was taken over by Owen Owen in 1978. Mr Suter who lived in Uxbridge until 1948 died peacefully in the early hours of Friday at The Nuffield Nursing Home Wexham. Go to The Uxbridge Leader report here to read this in full.
Source of images, unless otherwise stated - Suter family archives