Austin Hobbs obituary

Other lives: Old-school bank manager whose work took him to the agricultural and coastal communities of the south-west

My father, Austin Hobbs, who has died aged 91, was an old-fashioned bank manager whose work took him to the agricultural and coastal communities of the south-west. He started work for the National Provincial Bank, later NatWest, in 1952, at a time when statements were still handwritten and posted from local branches.

Austin was born on a farm in North Tawton, Devon, the fourth of five brothers. When the family moved to Morwenstow in north Cornwall, he remained in Devon as a boarder at Okehampton grammar school, and in 1949 did national service in the army, an immensely formative period that he considered his university education. His first journey east of Exeter ultimately took him through the Suez canal to Mogadishu in Somalia and later to Cyprus with the Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry.

He had a natural talent for sport, and back in the UK played full-back for Launceston rugby club and captained a Cornish youth team. He was renowned for his placekicking. When his boot brought victory in a close match, the local newspaper ran the headline “Hobbs does it again”.

Austin Hobbs, holding the ball, was captain of a Cornwall rugby youth team in the early 1950s
Austin Hobbs, holding the ball, was captain of a Cornwall rugby youth team in the early 1950s Photograph: Family photograph

In 1957 he married Mary Clogg, the sister of his rugby teammate Ted. David, Simon and I were born soon after. His job meant he moved around the south-west: Bude, Callington, Torquay, Swanage, St Austell, Crediton, Teignmouth, North Tawton and back to Bude. He was on numerous committees for schools, sports clubs, the church and charities – more than 30 over his lifetime. He had an easy way with people, and conversations usually ended in laughter. At North Tawton he invited a neighbour, Ted Hughes, the poet laureate, to be a guest at a banking dinner, and when the poet was unable to attend at short notice, he instead took another Hughes, Reg, the proprietor of the local Bloggs garage.

Having returned to manage the Bude branch, where he had started his career, he retired early, in 1988, and was for a while president of the town’s Rotary club. After the death of David in 2000, he threw himself into fundraising for Cancer Research UK, helping to raise more than £100,000 in the south Devon village of Shaldon, to where he and Mary had retired.

He moved to Market Harborough, in Leicestershire, in 2015 to be near Simon after Mary’s death. It was a new lease of life for him. Through volunteering at the local parkrun he became well known in the town. His regular marshalling spot in Welland Park, where he stood 233 times, became known as Austin’s Corner.

Dad was open-minded, generous and cheerful to the end, and cared about the world his grandchildren are growing up in. He was, by the end, a pro-European Green voter.

He is survived by his children Simon and me, seven grandchildren, and his brothers George and Harold.

James Hobbs

The GuardianTramp

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