The end of an era!

Mike Patching retires from the MHT

The first item on the agenda at the meeting of the Michael Hardinge Trust (MHT) on the 3rd of August 1987 was to welcome a new trustee, Mike Patching; and now, nearly 34 years later, including more than 31 years as Chairman, Mike has decided to retire.

This has not come as a total surprise to the rest of the Trustees. All of us have been aware for some time that he has been, in his own words, “contemplating retirement for some years”, and during those years, as he explained in his retirement statement to us, he’s been waiting for what he felt was “the right time” for the Trust and for him to leave. Also, by his own admission, he isn’t getting any younger!

Mike also says that he thinks that “following covid lockdown and the much heralded ‘New Normal’, it is a good time for change and to move forward afresh”. It also came as no surprise to all of us who know him, that he added “I will continue to support the trust in any way that I practically can in the future”.

There is of course another person who has made a significant contribution to this era that has come to an end. Sue, Mike’s wife, also served as a Trustee and indeed Secretary of the MHT for a number of years. Well known for her organising of and support for village activities over many years, she has, no doubt, also had to tolerate the regular intrusion of Charity business into family life. The Trustees wish to put on record our appreciation and thanks to her for all that she has done over many years.

Many of the community activities and social events in our village are closely intertwined with the Michael Hardinge Trust, either linked to fund raising or the use of the Old School as the venue for events organised by others in the village. Just a reminder of a few of these; Jubilee street parties, Burns Night suppers, Horley Footlights, whist drives, quiz nights, the summer fete, the Cinema Club, and the programme of winter talks.  As Chairman of the Trust, Mike has always led by example in promoting, organising or, at the very least, supporting the active involvement of the MHT.

When Mike took over as chairman, the last, long retired, Schoolmistress at Horley School, Morag Saunders, in what may be thought of as a direct educational ‘line of descent’ back to Michael Hardinge himself, was still the tenant in the cottage. The Trust’s finances were, shall we say, ‘finely balanced’ and as well as funding the MHT’s charitable aims, the buildings needed some considerable money spending on them if it was to prosper into the 21st century.

With Mike’s wide network of contacts, and no doubt the ‘old copper’s’ instinct for sniffing out a lead and following it, the MHT has been able to secure charitable grants and sponsorship to enable maintenance and property projects that have improved the quality of facilities such as the upper floor over the toilet block, for example.

His leadership role in the charity was a significant factor that led to him being given the Oxfordshire High Sheriff’s Award in 2016. This was in recognition of his ‘lasting contribution to community life in Horley and with schools in the local area’.

When Michael Hardinge died in 1627, he left his “house” [the Cottage as we now know it] to the “inhabitants” of Horley to be used as a schoolhouse to educate the children of the village. His intention was that this should be “for ever”. When the Charity was established in his name in 1896, his wishes were directly reflected in the registered aims of the Charity and remain so to this day. After the school closed in 1969 the building became a field study centre for local schools, their visits regularly including talks by Mike in the schoolroom followed by him leading the staff and children on guided nature walks and pond dipping. A fine example of how, with Mikes active involvement, Michael Hardinge’s legacy lives on.

With our best wishes and thanks to Mike.

The Trustees of the Michael Hardinge Trust.                      

  May 2021