Published Saffron Walden Historical Journal No 32 (2016)
Kenneth James Neale had a very distinguished career in the Civil Service and was also a notable historian of Essex. He died on 18 April 2016 at the age of 93. He accepted the invitation to become the Honorary Life President of the Saffron Walden Historical Society in 2000 and remained a great source of support and encouragement for the next 15 years. One of the last letters he sent to the secretary was an appreciation of the Society’s latest publication of Chepyng Walden, last summer.
Ken was born in Hackney on 9 June 1922; he won a scholarship to Grocers School, where he acquired his great love of and discipline for learning, which he always retained. When war broke out in 1939 he became a young member of the Hackney Home Guard, until he was old enough to join the Royal Navy from 1941–1946. This time made a deep in impression on him and he served in the North Atlantic, the Mediterranean and the Pacific, becoming a commissioned officer and being appointed as Intelligence Officer on HMS Anson a battleship assigned to the Pacific Fleet, which was to restore British control of Hong Kong, after the Japanese surrender.
After the war, Ken returned to the Civil Service and having passed the Executive Class exam, he joined the Colonial Office, serving in difficult and tense political situations in Cyprus and then in central Africa, now Zambia and Malawi. For his work in the former he was awarded the OBE. In 1965, after much travelling abroad, he decided to transfer to work at the Home Office where he headed a new division responsible for young offenders, women and girls. He became an expert on prison regimes and penal reform and chaired European Committees on crime problems. He had a long involvement with the Council of Europe, particularly helping newly formed governments of Eastern Europe to work towards compliance for admittance to the Council, after the collapse of communism.
On retirement, Ken and his wife Dorothy came to live in Great Sampford, where he enjoyed village life and founded the Sampford Society in 1984. He later co-ordinated the Heritage Sampford project, based on field walking, which revealed much of the area’s rich early heritage and resulted in a very successful exhibition and a publication studying the archaeology and history of a single parish. He was greatly involved in county societies, becoming Chairman of the Essex Archaeological and Historical Congress (1987–1990) and also of the Friends of Historic Essex (1985–2004). He was on the editorial board of the Essex Journal for many years and produced a number of valuable books on Essex history, among them Discovering Essex in London (1969) and Essex in History (1977). He edited three major festchrifts: An Essex Tribute (1987) for Dr Frederick Emmison; Essex Heritage (1992) for Sir William Addison and Essex Full of Profitable Things (1996) for Sir John Ruggles-Brise.
Ken was dedicated to his family, giving his wife Dorothy devoted care when she suffered ill-health in later years. He is survived by Dorothy, their daughter and three sons, nine grandchildren and nineteen great grandchildren.
Ken was always quietly courteous and kind, giving generously of his time and knowledge. He gave a number of talks to the Saffron Walden Historical Society in Saffron Walden over the years and as our Honorary President, was always anxious to attend AGMs when he could and wrote frequent appreciative notes to the officers, encouraging their work. He was very interested in and supportive of both the Historical Journal and of the more recent programme of publications. The Society was privileged that he retained his association with it until the end of his life.