Widow says vandalism of memorial trees shows “total lack of respect”

October 02 2018

Two trees planted to commemorate prominent Chipping Sodbury Football club members Patrick O'Connell and Fred Hague have been vandalised.

The trees were planted a couple of years ago along the public footpath that goes around the Ridings, a recreational area used by hundreds of people.  They both have memorial plaques, but despite this both trees were snapped off, leaving stumps just two feet high. They were discovered by football club vice president Jeff Harper. 

Patrick O'Connell passed away four years ago.  His widow, Mary, said: “I was devasted when Jeff rang. It’s horrible to damage any tree, but a memorial tree, and to damage my husband’s tree especially coming up to his anniversary, it’s very upsetting. It’s a total lack of respect, it’s mindless.”

“I don’t know who did it, or why anyone would do it without realising the impact that doing something like that would have on people.”

Patrick O'Connell was heavily involved with Chipping Sodbury Football club throughout his lifetime. He was vice chairman, and posthumously made vice president on his death.  He worked on the committee, fundraised and attended every Saturday when he was still well.  

His step son was a goalie, and his younger son Daniel used to go to the club with him regularly.  Mary O'Connell said: “it certainly was part of our lives’.  

Jeff Harper had organised special ceremonies for both families when the trees were blessed.  He said: “I’d like all the readers to see this, and to see that there are people out there who are prepared to do this. If the trees didn’t have a commemorative plaque on them, I’d say oh well, but there’s a plaque fully visible and so they should be punished for this.”

Information has been passed to the police, but the CCTV which covers the football club and the car park isn’t expected to have any footage of the trees in the recreational area. 

Jeff has been offered funding from the town’s trust to cover the cost of new trees. He said: “The football club are going to get this new tree put in with a much stronger protective frame around it.  Mary’s going to have the stump which is still alive planted in her garden. But she will have a replacement at the football club.  I’ll try and do the same for the other lady.”

Mary O'Connell welcomes Jeff’s plans. She said: “I would like to bring what’s remaining back to our home here and hopefully it will grow.”