The death of our senior Freeman and outstanding local dignitary is a sad loss to the town, to which he contributed so much.
John Bromfield was a Dunkirk veteran and former Chindit [the special forces against the Japanese in Burma], renaming his house in Wells Road Chindit House, where he lived with his first wife Laverne. This was the venue for many excellent garden and house parties held to benefit the numerous charities they supported.
Strangely, our paths crossed frequently in our earlier lives. Both of us were educated at Ramsgate, though at different schools and at different times. We both arrived in Glastonbury in the early 1950s, occupying the same upper flat at Portway Farm, Street, after each other.
Brom pursued his career teaching at Millfield, coaching athletes and notably Mary Bignall Rands, who was to become a champion Olympic long-jumper. Brom and Laverne were houseparents at Chindit House with a number of overseas students in their care.
Brom was first a borough councillor and later mayor of the town twice. His mayoral church parades and receptions were most notable events. On one occasion he invited an East African guest, who arrived in colourful national costume. His guest asked what the task of mayor involved, and Brom explained. His guest then asked if he was paid for the work, and Brom said no. He then asked Brom if he received “considerations”. Brom again said no. There was a pause, and the the guest remarked, “In my country we get paid and we get considerations!”
Brom worked hundreds of hours for the town in his civic capacity for no payment at all. Not only did he chair both the planning committee and burial board for many years, but he researched and established the rightful ownership of assets, particularly the allotments, wrongly transferred to Mendip District Council when local government was reorganized in 1973. This has greatly improved the financial standing of the town council.
He also improved the status and dignity of the town council by personal example, and he organized the restoration of the regalia: the pair of silver gilt mace which were a personal gift to the town from Queen Anne along with the borough charter.
I twice had the honour to act as deputy mayor during Brom’s terms of office. It is significant that due to his conscientious attention to duty I never once had to stand in and deputize. Instead it was the best training possible to sit by him at meetings and learn from his personal example.
Brom’s wife Laverne sadly died of cancer in 1983. In due course he married Gudrun, who supported him so well in his British Legion and Burma Star activities.
It was the greatest misfortune that Brom should suffer a stroke in March 1989, which necessitated his retirement from public life just as he was preparing to join the county council. Gudrun’s devotion and support has been outstanding, enabling Brom to live on for several years of greatly restricted life.
Sadly we shall not see the like of him again but send our appreciation and kind wishes to Gudrun and the family.