Rev Bill Groom



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Vicar in Animal Rescue

A Suffolk clergyman used all his skill as an expert sailor to help rescue cattle struggling in their flooded fields. The low-lying marshes on the outskirts of Hollesley and Shingle Street, near Woodbridge, were popular grazing areas for animals in the 1950s. So, when the great floods of January 1953 swept along the coast of East Anglia the animals were quickly in danger.

One of the first people to realise the danger to the animals was the Rev Bill Groom, rector of All Saints' Church, Hollesley, and chaplain at nearby Hollesley Bay open borstal. Mr Groom was well known in the area as an expert with boats and he loved being on his own boat that was kept moored on the River Deben at Ramsholt. Fortunately, at the time of the flooding disaster, Mr Groom - who was known as "Bosun" to his many friends in the area - also kept a dinghy close to the rectory at Hollesley, so he was able to take to the water in a bid to rescue the terrified cattle.

His widow, Jane Groom, who now lives at Halesworth, recalls her husband had a difficult task in rescuing the cattle. "There was a strong current in the water and the poor cattle were so afraid. My husband could reach some in the dinghy and managed to get them safely to higher ground," she said. Other cattle were more difficult to save and Mr Groom even had to grab some by the horns to guide them to safety. To rescue the most frightened cattle Mr Groom had to make a kind of lasso out of rope and become both a sailor and a cowboy. He made a loop from the rope that was thrown over the horns of the cattle and then began rowing towards the higher ground taking the animal with him. "My husband was in his element of course as he loved being on the water and he also loved animals. "It was quite an achievement as he was not a young man in 1953 and had lost the sight of one eye in an accident," said Mrs Groom.

The clergyman's efforts in helping to save the animals was typical of the spirit shown by people in the coastal villages of Suffolk who rallied together to help both humans and animals who were quickly placed in great danger by the floodwater.

David Lennard

East Anglian Daily Times
30th January 2003



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