Peter Payne: Tributes paid to much-loved Knebworth character ‘Pete the Meat’ after decades at Royal British Legion

Peter Payne, right, with his friend John Tyrrell at the Legion.

Peter Payne, right, with his friend John Tyrrell at the Legion. - Credit: Archant

Tributes have been paid to a cherished character of Knebworth who ran weekly ‘meat raffles’ at the village’s Royal British Legion for almost four decades.

Peter Payne's Royal British Legion membership card, dating back to New Year's Day 1977. Picture: JP

Peter Payne's Royal British Legion membership card, dating back to New Year's Day 1977. Picture: JP Asher - Credit: Archant

Peter Frederick Payne – sometimes called Fred and ubiquitously nicknamed ‘Pete the Meat’ – died at home in Deanscroft on August 15 at the age of 76.

He had been virtually ever-present for four decades at the Royal British Legion in Gun Lane, where regulars told this paper that long-time committee member, chairman and president Pete had never had a bad word to say about anyone.

Without exception, Pete ran a meat raffle at the Legion every weekend for 38 years – selling tickets through the week before making the draw and giving out the prize joints on Sunday afternoon.

Bar manager Vicki Jeromson said: “He was just part of the furniture to be honest, and he’ll be much missed. He spent most of his life here.

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“He’d spend Mondays and Wednesdays at home, but apart from that he’d be here at 2.15pm every day, without fail.

“The only time I’ve known him not to – this was last year – I sent someone round to check on him because it was so unusual. He said his leg had been playing up.

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“He always came in with his blue shirts with the epaulettes, and looked so smart. His boots were always shiny – he was very regimental.”

His brother Derek added: “I never heard him say a bad word about anybody. He used to say what he thought – but that was his opinion. We certainly never fought.”

Pete was born in Knebworth’s Pondcroft Road and stayed in the village all his life, also living in Gun Lane and Gun Road Gardens over the years. He attended the village primary school before going on to Stevenage’s Barclay School.

He had only two jobs, both in Stevenage – first as a storesman for the Educational Supply Association furniture factory in Fishers Green, and then as a porter at Lister Hospital, where his duties included delivering the milk.

He lived with his mother Phyllis until her death in 2002, after which authorities tried to move him to Kimpton – but Pete refused to leave Knebworth, and then-Stevenage MP Barbara Follett was among those who intervened to help keep him in the village.

His favourite songs included Softly as I Leave, Portrait of My Love and King of the Road.

Mars bar devotee Pete took over the weekly meat raffle after it was set up as a fundraising initiative in 1979, and the team at the Legion intend to continue them in his memory each Sunday at 3.30pm.

His funeral will be held on Monday, September 11, from 3.30pm at Harwood Park Crematorium off Watton Road. A wake will be held afterwards at the Knebworth branch of the Legion that Pete loved so well.

Pete’s brother Derek and sister-in-law Margaret told the Comet that everyone is welcome to come.

The funeral comes immediately after that of former Knebworth Legion chairman David Gilbert, who served alongside Pete on the branch committee.

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