FORMER Huntingdon mayor Jon Shapland, who had the unusual distinction of chairing a meeting of the full town council when no longer a member, has died, aged 88.

He had complained of feeling unwell on his way home from a Rotrary Club meeting last Thursday and was taken to Hinchingbrooke Hospital, where he died on Friday.

Jonathan Campbell Shapland, who was born in north London, first came to Huntingdonshire as an evacuee who settled in Buckden. After war service with the Royal Navy, much of it in aircraft carriers in the Far East, he worked for many years for the Mayfair-based former Crown jeweller Garrard.

According to his neighbour in Buttermere, Huntingdon, former district councillor John Sadler, Mr Shapland's last working task was to trace the ownership of silverware, much of it regimental, that had been left for safe-keeping in the firm's vaults before World War II.

“He was a very active Conservative and chairman of the local branch, as well as being a strong Rotarian,” Mr Sadler said.

“He just wanted to put something back into his adopted town. He was certainly a character – very dapper and polite, and he was instrumental in my becoming a councillor after I left the military.”

Another to come under his spell was Councillor Tom Sanderson, who is now a member of Huntingdonshire District Council's cabinet, and who was encouraged to join HDC and the town council and helped in his campaign by the Shaplands.

“When I went to see them one morning at about 9.30, he apologised for the amount they had completed – they had had a lie-in and had not started until 7am.

“He gave me a lot of invaluable advice. He was very wise and had seen a lot of life, but what I shall miss most is his sense of humour.”

Mr Shapland's wife of nearly 60 years, Eileen, died last May, having been unwell since a stroke some years previously.

Mr Shapland joined Huntingdon Town Council in [to come from Karen Cameron] and was Mayor of Huntingdon in 1994-95. But the Conservatives were wiped out by Labour at the following May's council elections, probably as a public protest against Sir John Major's Government, so Mr Shapland was no longer a councillor when he presided at the meeting at which he handed over the chain of office to Labour's George Beevor, said then town clerk Ted Bocking.

“He was a very nice chap. The things that I remember him for were the huge amount of work he and Eileen did when they started at Stukeley Meadows and the work they did at Hinchingbrooke Hospital, running the library scheme and delivering books and newspapers,” Mr Bocking told The Hunts Post.

“He was also a member of the Royal Society of St George, as well as Huntingdon Rotary Club.”

As a young man before his Naval service, Mr Shapland had stood in Ramsey Road, St Ives, and watched the first bombing sortie of World War II taking off from RAF Wyton, Mr Bocking said.

After Mrs Shapland was taken ill, Mr Bocking visited on Wednesday evenings, a date he continued after her death. “Between us we had all the right answers,” the former town clerk said. “Between us we would get everything right.

“Most people will remember him as a true gentleman. His death is a great shame. He made a great difference – more than many people realised.”

Mr Shapland leaves a daughter and son-in-law, Susan and Clive Marshman who live in Hartford, and granddaughter Nicola, who recently moved for Singapore.

His funeral will take place in the West Chapel at Cambridge Crematorium on Thursday, December 15, at 12.45pm.