Rich Hamp, former Chair of the Society, sadly died on 30th August. He had been diagnosed with cancer a number of years ago and had endured this with his customary fortitude. I hope that these few words go some way toward summing up the man and his major contribution to the Society.
Rich joined the Society as a volunteer during the Newhouse Lock restoration in 2004. It quickly became apparent that he was most knowledgeable in all construction matters. Characteristically, he was always generous in sharing that knowledge. He soon showed a flair for organisation as well. He did an outstanding job in the organisation of the celebratory opening of Newhouse Lock 2006.
Rich came onto the Society Council shortly after Newhouse was finished whilst continuing his work as a volunteer. During the Redwith restoration project, he was largely responsible for the creation of the role of Welfare Officer as a part of the site management team. This meant that functions such as site welfare, accommodation and training were in his capable hands – thus relieving successive project managers of a considerable burden. Rich continued in the Welfare Officer role until his retirement in 2021 although, as always, he remained supportive of his successors in the various roles.
In 2015, he became acting Chair of Council and in 2017 became the permanent chair. He discharged this role with distinction until 2021 when he stood down due to ill health. Rich’s seven years in the hot seat saw the Society successfully overcome a number of major challenges. The first was to adapt the Society’s relationship with British Waterways to that with Canal & River Trust – as it turned out two very different organisations. Although the Society has a long track record of successful restoration projects, he recognised that the main contractor role on the large scale works on the Pryces to Crickheath represented a big departure from what had gone before. He completely revised the Society’s health and safety systems and put them on a professional level. Rich has always been an advocate of forward planning and he initiated a succession plan for Council members and restoration volunteers which should ‘future proof’ the Society.
Rich was still an attendee at work parties until the middle of this year. We are all beneficiaries of his company, technical help and sage advice. His last major contribution to the Society was the characteristically highly successful organisation of the June opening celebrations for the Pryces to Crickheath section of the Montgomery Canal. He can be seen at this event, as we want to remember him, in the centre of the above picture.
Rich was a lovely man, unfailing civil and polite. He was entirely approachable by allcomers. His advice was always very perceptive and grounded, his outlook realistic, pragmatic yet enthusiastic. Presented with a problem, he never sat back and did nothing, he just got stuck in and saw it through. He had a fine sense of humour and was a great bloke to have a pint with. He will be so very missed by all connected to the Society and the wider canal world.