The Spitfire Man

July 2, 2018 by Rob Kahl @ Scott & Stapleton

How proud would you be if your father had been a Spitfire pilot during the World War II? Imagine then, how proud you would be if you were approached by a film crew who wanted to make a film that featured your father flying those very same Spitfires! And what timing as we celebrate the 100th anniversary.
That was the fortunate position that Jane French found herself in with her fabulous father Ken French. Coming originally from the West coast of Ireland Ken was imaginatively nicknamed ‘Paddy’ and this is what he was known as to most people that knew him. His fame (which he loved by the way) spread much further though. I am lucky enough to be selling his house after he has sadly passed away and when I speak to people about it and describe where the property is I am not exaggerating when I say that everybody knows the property as ‘the Spitfire man’s house’.
I was unable to meet Paddy before his death but the stories his daughter tells me and the passion in which she describes him make we wish that I had. I have described him as one of the last Leigh characters and a proper old ‘Irish’ eccentric. He used to think nothing of scaling his large house, climbing up on to the roof, just to sit, take in the view and have a moment to himself. There was also the moment that he met his wife who was also in service. She entered the pilots Mess Hall and there was Paddy hanging upside down from the rafters. Asked by his daughter why on earth he had gone up there in the first place a few years ago the answer was ‘no idea, probably because I could?’. 
He had travelled extensively and brought trinkets and souvenirs from far flung places that now fill his home and with his RAF service uniforms, kitbags and equipment that are scattered around his property it is a poignant reminder of the stern stuff that these men & women from a by gone generation were made of.
The property itself is a large 5 bedroom house on a huge plot for the area. Unfortunately it has fallen in to disrepair but previously Paddy used to carry out all of the maintenance himself using his large collection of tools in his little workshop or the multitude of sheds that scatter the garden. Talking of the garden it is a true reflection of the man. An eclectic mix of very mature trees and bushes with a couple of now well hidden greenhouses and an original stable building complete with drinking trough. There is also a natural well which of course Paddy used to climb down to clean or unblock! There are loads of nooks and crannies to lose yourself for hours and it is completely secluded and a calm oasis right in the centre of Leigh. The local foxes are certainly a bit disgruntled to have an estate agent disturbing them wandering around but I must look like a proper wally trying to scale the garden, dodging Triffid like plants  in my posh suit. I bet Paddy would be having a right laugh at me being a wimp if I spot a spider or creepy crawly and shrieking.
The property and the plot have huge potential. The house itself needs updating and modernising but there is also the possibility of demolishing and building a couple of houses or unfortunately maybe an even bigger development. I genuinely hope though that it is another young family that takes it on and loves it as much as Paddy and his family did. He lived there for 65 years which is no good for us estate agents but lovely to think about how he was able to bring his 4 children up in that security.
Sometimes though, even I can admit that there are more important things than houses (just!). Ken ‘Paddy’ French will be featured in a film that highlights the bravery, camaraderie and sacrifice that men like him displayed in those unthinkably frightening days of World War II. This is not a home movie we are talking about, this is a proper feature film that is to premier in London and then screened at the Southend Odeon Cinema and various other cinemas on July 17 at 7pm. There will even be a DVD launch some time later in the year!

It will obviously be a hugely emotional time for his daughter Jane who will of course be there but I imagine the overwhelming feeling she will have is pride for her father. And quite right too, we all owe him and the thousands like him a huge debt.

This article is by Rob at Scott & Stapleton 
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