Eastergate tree stands as a testament to vicar’s hard work

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A CHERRY tree planted by pupils in Eastergate will be a lasting reminder of a much loved vicar.

Staff and pupils from Eastergate C of E Primary School bid a fond farewell to the village’s vicar of some 16 years, Canon Simon Holland, last Thursday.

To commemorate Father Simon’s role at the Church Lane school, a flowering cherry tree was planted by pupils in the school’s playing field.

Father Simon said: “I have really enjoyed my time in Eastergate. Getting to know the children and the staff has been a real joy and delight.

“I have, over the years, baptised a lot of them, and even performed marriage ceremonies for one or two. I have many happy and fond memories to take away with me.”

As a regular visitor to the school, Father Simon used to take assemblies and go into different classes to give talks.

As a token of his departure he presented each of the school’s classes with a gift.

The school’s deputy headteacher, Graham Oakford, said: “Father Simon will be missed by everyone here at Eastergate Primary School, staff, pupils and parents.

“Throughout the years he has become a cornerstone of the school community. His support and guidance has been invaluable.

“He has brought his amazing qualities to the school and shared them with all of us. He is calming and easy to talk to and the children all really like him.

“We will be cordoning off the area around the tree and hope to create a place where pupils and staff can come to reflect and relax. In many ways the area will mirror Father Simon’s personality.”

To say their goodbyes, pupils took part in a special assembly.

They sang Father Simon’s favourite hymn, reflected on his qualities and shared their memories of him.

Some of the children also made up their own special prayers.

Father Simon has moved to the parishes of St Paul’s in Chichester and Westhampnett.