Remembering John Kinch

3 October 1929 – 14 November 2016

“I didn’t want to follow other people’s footsteps. I wanted to make my own tread in the snow.”

John Kinch certainly did make his own tread with spectacular freedom from the usual petty rules and conventions which bind and limit so many of us. He believed in himself and stayed true to himself throughout his entire life. He was a man of honour, integrity, of truth and of trust. A man with love and kindness in his huge heart and courage in his soul. He was a husband, father, grandfather, fighter, farmer, miner, boxer, businessman, builder, singer, inventor… and, above all… inspiration.

Here we pay tribute to his life and share the history of John Kinch and how his vision and dedication created The Elms as it is today – a retirement dream for the over 50’s, where so many live happily with peace, tranquillity and security.

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John was born in Kington Hospital at 3.20am on 3rd October 1929 into a family of first-generation farmers. He went home to Byton Farm, North Herefordshire, where he grew into a much loved child.

Like many farming children of the time, he was given responsibility from a very young age. As a four year old he was bottle feeding the tiddling lambs which had been rejected by their mothers. When he wasn’t much older, John fulfilled the role of cider carrier for the men working in the fields which of course led to him helping himself to a good drink of his own!

As he grew, John really disliked school. Until he was 10 years old, he walked daily to the local school, but he saw no point in learning about history and such things when all he wanted to do was get home and drive the tractor, which he did from the age of 12. Moving on from the local school, he travelled three and a half miles on his bicycle every day to the top school in Presteigne, where he seized every opportunity to play truant! So when he was 12 he went to Lucton, a prestigious boarding school about ten miles from his home, where, in those days, the dormitories were so cold that any condensation on the children’s blankets froze them. John was frequently and severely ill, and when he finally left school and returned to the farm aged 15 and a half, it took months of good care before he regained his health.

John was never a strong child and, indeed, during his early years, he had to put up with unwanted attention from some pretty serious bullies. But when he moved into his teenage years, John spent many hours building up his strength and made sure he dealt with his bullies and those who bullied others – a natural protector.

When his schooling ended, John threw himself into work with a dedication, drive and enthusiasm which was to stay with him for the whole of his life. He was the farm’s tractor driver, working from dawn to dusk and beyond. For John, work was something to be taken to the highest possible levels of achievement and he never expected others to do anything that he would be unwilling to do himself. Despite his protestations that he was a poor scholar, John had a razor sharp brain with a massive and incisive intelligence which allowed him to expand his business interests into a large and hugely successful series of enterprises. He wasn’t afraid to try something new, venturing from farming into property, transport and even into the ownership of a tin mine in Cornwall which he turned into a valued educational and tourist facility. In each area of his work he found ways to improve quality, yield and outcome. Woe betide anyone who tried to pull the wool over his eyes when it came to doing a job properly, because he could literally see when something was a millimetre out of true.

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His drive to achieve the very best standards meant all those who dealt with him could rest assured that he would look after them as he would look after his own. He had the ability to stand back and see solutions where other people may not even be aware of a problem. He was a man of soaring integrity who said that aiming to be the best didn’t mean being better than anyone else.

Working as hard as he did, and having to provide for a growing family, meant that John didn’t have much free time, but when he did he used it well. Not only was he a darts champion, but also a professional boxer. John was also a talented and classically trained singer and did in fact turn down a job with the D’Oyly Carte Opera Company.

John’s business empire continued to expand until the 1970’s when, at the age of 48 and through no fault of his own, John was faced with the disastrous loss of much of what he had worked so hard to achieve. But John, unlike many others would have done, picked himself up and went down the mines, where he stayed until he was 53. Although the work in the pit was hard, he added to his own challenges by setting out to rebuild what he had lost, by purchasing The Elms. Using all his strength and working 18 hours a day, John moved between the mine and The Elms, building back up his family’s fortunes. Failure simply did not exist as a possibility in John’s mind.

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John had a vision to turn what was then a holiday caravan park into the award winning residential park for the over 50’s that it is today. All the children played their role in helping out over the holidays and weekends but none more so than Stuart, the youngest child who is now Managing Director.

The Elms meant a great deal to John and he really dedicated himself to making what he thought was the best park home park. He undertook research in America on park homes and in true John Kinch style built his own specification park home, not choosing to simply buy an ‘off the shelf’ model but upgrading each and every aspect to create something unique and of a superior standard. He was awarded runner up in the Park Owner of the Year awards in 2005 and won the Bronze accolade for the Elms in the David Bellamy Conservation Award which has now been succeeded to Silver.

During his years John had the great blessing of knowing the enduring love of two beautiful and wonderful women. He met Joy when she was a child, living at Manor Farm, which John’s family had taken on. They both got on well and as time went on, they came together and were married in 1957 and had four children, Ann, Johnny, Tracey and Stuart. When the marriage reached its natural conclusion, John and Joy were able to remain friends.

Later, John was fortunate to meet Marion, a very special lady who had arrived from Canada and was travelling with a friend. After many missed encounters, it was apparent that this was a match that was meant to be; they married and were blessed with the birth of their Son, Sam.

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When the time came to say our farewells to John, his efforts and love shone through with an overwhelming amount of people at the church. Many residents of The Elms, along with colleagues, family and friends came to pay their respects. He was a credit to the industry and a beacon of intention for how things should be done. He touched so many people’s lives, giving willingly and without any expectation of reward. Kind and generous, decent and honourable, he helped to change many lives for the better and he will be remembered always.

Exerts taken from his Eulogy, written by Jackie Brockway.

John Kinch - founder of The Elms