Tributes are paid after death of key community figure

Keith Nethercoate Bryant

Keith Nethercoate Bryant

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TRIBUTES have flooded in for an Upper Beeding man who played a significant role in the village community for 30 years.

Keith Nethercoate-Bryant, a former submariner and local historian, died after a long illness at the age of 83. The funeral took place on Tuesday this week at Worthing Crematorium, with a service held at St Peter’s Church, Upper Beeding.

Born in 1927 in Brighton, Keith was the son of a builder and an artist, was 12 when the Second World War broke out, and he joined the Local Defence Volunteers (LDV). He went on to be a submariner with the Navy, and was on HMS Perseus when it was struck by an Italian mine in 1941. After the war, he returned to Sussex, where he wrote three books on his experiences at sea.

Keith met his wife, Margaret, in Brighton, and they married on Christmas Eve, 1951, moving to Upper Beeding more than 30 years ago. She died in 2007.

He was a member of Upper Beeding Parish Council for 25 years, retiring in 2005.

During his 25 years on the parish council, he was chairman of every committee, and was instrumental in the setting up of the project, which saw Upper Beeding ‘adopting’ Yobe, in Somalia. A sponsored cycle ride was held through surrounding villages raising significant funds for the project.

During the 1980s, more than £20,000, raised via the scheme, was sent to the village to help improve water supplies in the area,

As a tribute to his dedicated wqork on the parish council, at a special ceremony in 2006 a silver birch tree was planted near his home, to mark his 25 years’ service.

On of his main aims in life was to try and improve village facilities.

He worked on the extension of the school in Upper Beeding, and the bypass, which was very controversial at the time, but which significantly improved life in the village.

Keith’s other great love was history, said Pat Nightingale, honorary secretary of the Beeding and Bramber Local History Society, which Keith helped to found in 1980.

She said: “Keith contributed chapters to two of the books we produced on the history of Beeding and Bramber. He also wrote monthly articles on aspects of local history for the church magazine The Villager. For the last eight years, Keith has been president of the society. He will be missed.”

Those articles were collected into a book, published last year, called Portrait of Village Life – Beeding, Bramber and Botolphs in Sussex, published last year.

Keith was admitted to hospital just after Christmas, where relatives said he simply ‘faded away’.

Keith and Margaret had seven children, Kevin, Jerry, Virginia, Stephen, Matthew, John and Andrew, 12 grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren.