Your weekly copy of the Bucks Free Press has just dropped through the letterbox, or you’ve bought a copy at your local store; so what is the first page you read?

Is it perhaps the sports section at the back of the paper, or the “hatches and dispatches” notices, or it might even be the Nostalgia page?

The “Letters to the Editor” page must surely be high on your priority list, so I thought it would interest our readers to see what that page looked like 50 years ago, on November 23, 1973. Arthur Church was the editor, who as we saw in a Nostalgia article on November 3, had worked for the BFP since he joined the staff as a cub reporter in 1928.

In 1973 the letters page had the heading of ‘Have Your Say’ and the first thing that would strike you is that every letter is accompanied by the writer’s full name, and almost always either their affiliation or postal address.

None of this ‘Name and address supplied’, but not stated; or ‘Name and address withheld’. Or what in my opinion is even worse is when the writer of the letter just gives their initials. An example recently was the initials MD, how many local people with those initials are there – myself for one, but I can assure you that I was not the author of that letter!

The content of the letters fifty years ago was also very different. There was much less negative political comment, and much more positive focus on truly local matters. The headline letter was ‘Make room for the bikes again’ sent in by D A T Powis from Marlow Bottom, who made the case for bicycles and motorcycles to be provided with a shelter at Wycombe Railway Station.

The letter, headed ‘Naphill campaign’, was from Miss Edna Cooper, who had responded to requests from ‘senior citizens’ of that village to set up a campaign to get flats for elderly residents built. Through the Guardian Housing Association, in conjunction with ‘Help the Aged’, she had established that flats would be built providing a suitable site of about one acre in the village could be acquired. She was now appealing for help in finding such a site.

In the ’Need for strength’ letter from Mrs Alice Richardson of Stoke Mandeville, she was proposing that a Bucks Federation of Village Societies should be set up. This she suggested would provide a powerful voice to resist the over-development in the county, citing the proposal to build in the Gomm Valley as an example.

C Kininmonth wrote in on behalf of those residents of Wheeler End who lived on the western side of the common, and who had been in trouble with the police about parking their cars. To quote from the letter ‘We may be excused if we wonder who has taken leave of his senses. The police require that nobody parks his car on the grass verges outside his house or on the common-land, and insist that all parking must be on the tarmac road surface with side-lights on at night.’ But as he pointed out these practices were not observed elsewhere in the village, or in fact in the district!

A very interesting letter under ‘Links with the past’ was from Miss Winifred Stone of West Wycombe Road, High Wycombe, and referred to the previous week’s front page of the Bucks Free Press. This featured local opera singer Sydna Withington, who had just taken her first major part in an opera at Covent Garden, as a Greek woman in Iphigenie En Tauride by Gluck. Now married with a girl of 11 and a boy of 8 and living in Beaconsfield, Mrs Withington had studied singing with Gwendoline Hanson at the Birmingham School of Music and was now under contract to Glyndebourne. In her letter Miss Stone pointed out that Miss Hanson had for some years been visiting music mistress at Wycombe ‘Tech’ and ‘there must be a number of her pupils still resident in the town’. Miss Stone then went on to reminisce about other Wycombe men and women who had become famous in the musical world. This included Denis Stevens who had become very well known on both sides of the Atlantic as a musicologist and broadcaster.

The Hon. Mrs D Butterwick from Beaconsfield wrote in ‘to thank all those generous people who had contributed’ to the Memorial Fund which had been established in memory of Karen Saunders. Karen had tragically died on November 10,1971 aged just 11, when trying to show her classmates how brave she was. They were travelling home by train from Lady Verney High School to Beaconsfield and Karen had been ‘dared’ to open a door on the train and ‘stand on the little wooden step outside’. At the time the train was said to be travelling at 65 mph and had just entered a tunnel. ‘Suddenly there was a ‘whumph’ and the carriage door was knocked right back’ sending Karen hurtling to her death on the track. An inquest recorded a verdict of misadventure. (The letter is reproduced in its entirety elsewhere on this page and it contains details of the schools who were beneficiaries from the Fund.)

Showing that immigration was just as much a controversial issue in 1973 as it is today, fifty years later, two letters, one from Andrew Coniam the Chairman of the Wycombe & Beaconsfield National Front and the second from H G Cobden of Beaconsfield, were both decrying the important contribution which immigrants were then, and still, are making to the British economy.

An interesting and important letter from F C Hatcher of Uxbridge under the heading of ‘Disappearing trees’ concerned plans by the County Council to fell a large number of trees in Langley Park and Black Park, which were then to be ‘processed’ by the sawmill at Black Park. Mr Hatcher urged that these plans be reconsidered.

Finally, a ‘Note for grumblers’, was a letter from K Wilkinson Chairman of Wycombe Liberal Association. This related to proposals over a number of years from Liberal councillors on Wycombe District Council that council meetings should be open to the public, proposals which had been repeatedly ‘defeated by a large Tory majority’. I understand that this has now been standard practice at council meetings for many years, although there are always matters which have to be discussed at a closed session.

Remember: Your local newspaper is not just a place for community news but a space for community voices.

The Bucks Free Press has dedicated many decades to reporting everything from campaigns to celebrations across Buckinghamshire, plus everything in between. Our news team strives to regularly provide a space where local issues are highlighted and given a platform.

The letters page is a very important part of this and we would urge readers to get in touch, submit letters, and have your say - we want to hear from you.

Memorial Fund Aid

From the Hon. Mrs D Butterwick, Parkside, Beaconsfield.

After the tragic death of their daughter Karen, Mr and Mrs Saunders and their friends decided to start a memorial fund. This fund, the trustees are glad to announce, is now registered as a charity with the Department of Education and Science.

We want to take the opportunity of thanking all those generous people who contributed to this fund, and to tell them, and your readers who may like to support us, what use the fund will be put to.

Most of Karen’s school life was spent at Holtspur County Middle School and as the trustees decided that the fund should be used for local children, a prize, one for a boy, and one for a girl, will be given yearly.

Also cash sums will be awarded annually for two pupils to attend instruction, physical, or informative classes, or financial help given towards educational holidays. The choice of these awards will be left to the school.

After Karen left Holtspur she went to Lady Verney School, High Wycombe.

A trophy will be awarded yearly, to be held by the pupil who has done most for the school and her fellow pupils.

The trustees want to encourage the children to attain a high standard of work and behaviour, so that both the school and the pupils themselves can be proud of their achievements.  
As the fund grows it is intended that more money should be available at Holtspur School for prizes, and for the educational or instructional holiday that will be taken each year.

Any donations can be sent to the Karen Memorial Fund at Barclays Bank, Beaconsfield.

The Karen Saunders Memorial Fund was registered with the Charity Commission on September 11, 1973, No.310615, and ceased to exist on March 25, 1995. Does any reader have information in relation to the work of the charity, if so please email