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Saturday 2 September 2023

Kenny Miller - A tribute

Jim and Ken

In our fast-paced modern world, where people change jobs, homes, and locations frequently, the concept of a "local" person seems like a relic from the past. But Ken Miller embodied the essence of being a true local in the picturesque village of Osmington in Dorset.

Ken's story began in 1927; he was born at the Picnic Inn in Osmington Mills, a place with a unique history of its own, which was owned by his grandfather. He moved to Osmington village when he was just three years old, and astonishingly, he called it home for a remarkable 93 years. (The Picnic Inn was later renamed the Smugglers Inn around 1973.)

Ken was a character with a warm personality, a mischievous humour, and a twinkle in his eye. His adventures with his lifelong friend Jim Legg were the stuff of legend, often shared in private gatherings and the infamous Tuesday club meetings*.

Village stalwarts Ken, Jim, Tim, Mavis, Mary, Peter, Sue

One particularly memorable tale from their childhood involved finding an unexploded incendiary device near the White Horse, a place frequented by German bombers during World War II. Ken and Jim attempted to cut the bomb in half, but their plans were foiled by an ARP warden who caught them in the act. It's a story that highlights the innocence and daring of their youth. I won't mention the incident with the petrol syphoning! 

Ken's roots in Osmington ran deep. His paternal grandfather owned the Picnic Inn in Osmington Mills. His father, Harold Miller, worked at the Picnic Inn before marrying Ken's mother, Hilda, and moving to Osmington village in 1930. Hilda Shergold, Ken's mother, was the daughter of local farmer Mr Shergold, who had a significant impact on the village's agricultural history.

Carter Mr Miller outside Beehive cottage

Ken's connection to Osmington continued with his ownership of two farms in the village including Netherton farm. The Miller family's ties to Osmington Mills were strong, with several relatives who fought in World War I and played essential roles in the village's life.

Ken and his wife, Beryl, had a great influence on village life together in Osmington. They initially lived in Hitt's Cottage, running a shop that sold vegetables and kids' sweets like bullseyes and sherbets. Later, they moved to Thalma Cottage next door and eventually built a bungalow on Lower Church Lane in the 1970s, designed by an architect to Beryl's specifications.

Ken's mother, Hilda, made her mark on Osmington as well, serving as the President of the Women's Institute (WI) for many years. She played the organ at the Methodist Church for 57 years, highlighting the strong sense of community in the village during her time.

Ken's reminiscences include regret about not buying the Methodist church building when it went up for sale for £5. He suggested to his Mother that the building should be given to the church to run a Sunday school, but after being gifted to the Church it was sold by them, depriving the village of potential community benefits. This decision weighed on him as a missed opportunity and as his family were Methodists and attached to the building.

The Chapel, Osmington

As Osmington evolved over the past century, Ken's family played a vital role in the village's development. Ken and his neighbour, Tim Maggs, as landowners, have helped preserve the unique character of the village and its surrounding countryside, preventing it from succumbing to unnecessary development.

Photo courtesy of Marco Demontis

When asked what he would have done if he hadn't been a farmer and lived in Osmington all his life, Ken's eyes lit up with the prospect of being a fisherman. He cherished the sea and fondly remembered his adventures as a child, going fishing with his uncle Percy Miller.

Osmington Mills annual regatta

" I'd have been a fisherman. I loved the sea. I used to do a lot of fishing. I went to sea when I was three years old with my uncle Percy Miller. He used to bring me back up the cliff sat in a basket of lobsters. Those were good old days. We would go up fishing all up the coast, up to White Nothe, up round Durdle door. That was about the limit he went to, Redcliff point, Ringstead bay. He would catch lobsters, crabs and at this time of year he would go prawn fishing, especially at Osmington mills ledge and around Ringstead". 

Photo courtesy and copyright of Lucy Wyman

In the end, Ken Miller's story is a testament to the enduring spirit of local life in Osmington, where connections to the land, community, and shared memories define the essence of being a true local. Through the stories of people like Ken, we can appreciate the rich history and traditions that shape villages like Osmington for generations to come.

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* The Tuesday club was founded by Ken Miller and his very good friend Chilly Charles at the Smugglers Inn during the ownership of Bill Bishop (circa 1980's). There were usually 10 -15 hardcore members and they would go to a different pub every week, the Bridge, the Springhead, or the Black bear at Wool, Red Lion. The only prerequisite being the pubs stayed open all day :) 

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