Tributes honour Diss community stalwart Chris Pursehouse as ‘true gentleman’

Chris Pursehouse.
Chris Pursehouse.

An active Diss community stalwart and former Rotary Club president who passed away last Monday has been honoured as a “steadfast friend” and a “true gentleman”.

Chris Pursehouse, of Frenze Road, recognised in the Diss area as a farmer, churchman, Rotarian and ex-rugby player, died on August 8, aged 81.

Mr Pursehouse was best known for his role with the Diss and District Rotary Club, as a member since 1972, club president from 1984—85 and a recipient of the organisation’s highest honour, the Paul Harris Fellowship Award, in 2010.

Heather Babb, Diss Rotary Club president, told the Diss Express: “In the true spirit of a Rotarian, Chris looked for ways in which the club could benefit the community and those who have needs greater than his.

“The Club, and I in particular, will miss Chris’ great humour, smiling face, and generous and helpful demeanour. He is a huge loss to our club.”

The son of ex-Diss Junior School headteacher Harry and the nephew of former Diss Grammar School head Eric, Mr Pursehouse was born in at the School House, Wortham in 1935, and educated in Diss and then Framlingham College, before a spell of National Service in the Canal Zone and Cyprus during the 1950s.

Basil Abbott, manager of Diss Museum, recalled: “Chris told me he was something of a scamp at school.

“The Abbott boys, my brother Barry and I, were always held up as an example to him of how boys ought to behave.”

Upon his return, Mr Pursehouse worked as a seller for a local agricultural merchant, and began rearing pigs with the help of his wife, Isobel, whom he married in 1964.

He would later become a full-time pig farmer in 1976, following the birth of his four sons.

Roydon resident Ben Gaze, a friend of Mr Pursehouse for more than 60 years, said: “He was, all in all, an extremely nice man and a steadfast friend.

“He was a fun person. He always worked hard. He was a very genuine sort of man.

“You won’t find anyone with a bad word to say about him, and I don’t think he ever said a bad word about anybody else.”

In the same year as his Rotary Club presidency, during which time he introduced the successful collection of used spectacles from local surgeries and health centres to benefit developing countries, Mr Pursehouse was also the president of Diss Young Farmers Club and the Diss Round Table.

A keen sportsman, he played rugby and cricket, at one time serving as a captain for Diss Rugby Club, and he was also an active churchman, even participating in church pageants and a performance of Magnificence, which was held as part of the 2004 Skelton Festival.

Lawrence Thompson, from the Diss Waveney Probus Club, who knew Mr Pursehouse from his time as a Gislingham resident, described him as “a true gentleman and kindness personified.”

Mr Thompson said: “He was a stalwart of the village, active in virtually every community activity from the church to the Gislingham Variety Club, both as one of the early founding members and an actor. Who can forget his Baron Hardup performance in Cinderella?

“Chris would help anyone and woe betide you if you proffered payment!”

“He owned a truck known affectionately as Peggetty and Chris would happily make this available to people to transport everything from logs to a dismantled summerhouse .”

Mr Abbott added that a special screening of ‘Something Else About Diss’, a film made for the 2006 John Betjeman centenary narrated by Mr Pursehouse, will take place tonight at 7.30pm in St Mary’s Hall, Diss — £5 admission — as a “timely memorial” to him.