A young child watched with curiosity at the thick chain and fur pelt as Terry Buckle was robed-in as the new Mayor of St Edmundsbury last Thursday.
To an onlooker it seemed like a child admiring his granddad – the reality is that the mayor and his wife have given him a home away from the horrors of his past.
Terry and his wife Pamela have been fostering children for the past 26 years – they have fostered 49 children, many of them with emotional difficulties or special needs – some of them have stayed with the couple for as long as eight years.
“I’m proud to be their parents. We both come from broken homes. I thought I had a bad childhood but it is nothing compared to some of these youngsters,” said Terry.
Terry was born in London on the same day that Germany invaded Poland – September 1, 1939.
At two months old he was evacuated to Cirencester. But after the war ended his parents, who had already allowed his five brothers home, claimed there was not enough room. He eventually returned when he was seven.
“They didn’t want me, I wasn’t part of the family anymore. I was alien and boy did I feel it,” said Terry.
“When I was about eight or nine I used to walk the streets around Whitechapel at night, it was safer.
“I can remember I went up to a bloke at a lampost and asked the time,
“He had a strange accent and said to me ‘What are you doing out this time of night?’ I told him I was headed home.
“Every night I used to talk to him. Then one day I saw his face on a billboard – it was George Formby.
“I only ever saw him once afterwards as he said he was going up North to work.
“I used to go to the Arbour Road Police Station where this copper would sit me down with a chocolate biscuit and a cup of tea and would then get me home.
“I was sitting in the Moreton Hall Community Centre one day and I thought I recognise that voice and said ‘Hello Fred’. He looked at me and said: ‘I know you, Terry’.”
“That was the same copper. He is a lovely man. He is in his late nineties now but I still go round regularly to see him.”
But time has not healed his feelings towards his parents.
“I detest them. It was unnecessary,” he said.
Eventually, he was taken into care aged 10 when a school teacher noticed blood pouring down his leg from where his father had beaten him.
“That was the best thing that ever happened to me. We had a matron, she pulled me out of trouble.
“If I’d stayed where I was I would have been a young rogue,” said Terry.
When he left the home he was taken under the wing of a kindly social worker who he affectionately calls Aunt Julia.
Terry worked as an apprentice electrical mechancial engineer wiring up houses in Thetford before leaving to drive London buses. By then he was living with Aunt Julia in Flempton
Then, in 1964, he met Pamela who had unbeknown to him stayed in the same care home.
“That was by accident. Her nan was a friend of mine and had moved to Knettishall Heath. I was visiting her one day when Pamela turned up.
“Talk about love at first sight. I followed her back to London and got caught by a police officer after I fell asleep in a layby. Fortunately he let me off.”
They courted by letter – Terry even proposed by letter – and they will have been married 48 years in December.
Aunt Julia gave them a cottage in Flempton and Terry quit his bus driving job and joined Suffolk County Council working his way up in the school transport section to fleet coordinator.
It was while there that the couple, who have four children, decided to start fostering. Pamela gave up her job as the first caretaker of Sebert Wood Primary School to look after one particularly difficult youngster.
“When you have them children live with you, you are their parent. You make their life as best as you can.
“When you read about what has happened to them, it just frightens you.
“It horrifies me to think someone could do that to a child,” said Terry.
In his time, Terry has also served 22 years as chairman of the Moreton Hall Community Centre and 12 years with St John’s Ambulance.
His first job as mayor on Saturday was taking part in a litter pick on the Horringer Court Estate.
Terry has chosen Moreton Hall Youth Club and Cancer Research UK as his mayoral charities – his five brothers and father all died from cancer.