Outstanding service to town and its bridge
Mr Frank E Whiting, who died on Monday at the Torridge Hospital, Bideford, aged 85, was Bideford’s oldest honorary Freeman. That is an honour never lightly bestowed, but few people can every have been more worthy of it. His active service to Bideford continued until October last year, when he retired from his position of warden of Bideford Long Bridge, which he had held for 42 years. But actually his association with that ancient monument and charity was ended only with his death, for the acceptance of his resignation was immediately followed by his appointment at a trustee. Mr Whiting, an architect by profession, began to practise in Bideford soon after World War 1 as a partner in the firm of Orphoot, Whiting and Lindsay of North Devon, London and Edinburgh. A Fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, he had worked on important buildings in various parts of the country. He was a man of wide interests. For a number of years he was a member of the Royal Aeronautical Society, and after some time with a big engineering firm he became an aircraft designer. In 1927 he began an association with Bideford Town Council that was to extend over 31 years. He was Mayor in 1930-31 and an alderman from 1943. Mr Whiting was a founder member, and three times president, of Bideford Rotary Club. From boyhood he was keen on painting, and he was a founder member, and president, of Westward Ho! (now Bideford and Westward Ho!) Art Society. Photography was another interest – he took his first colour picture around 60 years ago. He was the first president of Bideford Camera Club and held the post – but never as a figurehead – for 15 years. His services were recognised by his appointment as an honorary life member. From early days he was a radio enthusiast, and the first TV picture direct from America was a reminder that in 1923 he and his first wife, at their home, Littlecroft, overlooking the River Torridge upstream from the bridge, were apparently the only people in the country to hear the whole of the test radio transmission from the States and that included the British Broadcasting Company. There were few sections of public life to which Mr Whiting did not contribute something. He had been a member and produced of the former Bideford Operatic Society, chairman of the Governors of the Grammar School and a long standing member of the Special Constabulary from which he retired with the rank of sergeant. In World War 2 he found time to embark on a tremendous undertaking that produced the most fitting memorial that he could have. It is a 9ft 6in. scale model of Bideford bridge showing the five stages of its construction from circa 1280 when the Torridge was first spanned by timber. What was a labour of love occupied him for six and a half years and the model, together with an illustrated guide, the most compact and informative history of the bridge ever written, he presented to the trustees. As long as the bridge lasts – the model, now housed in the town library, will tell its story to succeeding generations. Mr Whiting, who was a widower, lived at Villa Bambino, Glen Gardens, Bideford. The funeral service takes place at Bideford Parish Church this Friday morning, followed by private cremation.