Ramsgate's Mayor is Appreciated

Mr. A. B. C. Kempe

(from a newspaper article by Eddie Butcher
Mayor 1953-54)

ARTHUR Bloomfield Courtenay Kempe, popularly known as A.B.C. will surely rank as one of the most outstanding figures of Ramsgate's public life.

He entered the Council shortly after taking up a professional appointment here in the early 1930s, when efforts were being made to revive the town's prestige and popularity after years of nationwide depression. It became quickly apparent that A.B.C. had a tremendous flair for publicity and an intense enthusiasm for every job to which he set his hand.

Many will remember his part as Hengist in the brilliant Ramsgate Pageant of 1934, his top-hatted tea party for thousands of visitors on Ramsgate's sands and his tours to promote the Ramsgate - Coventry holiday plan.

After notable service as Chairman of the Entertainments and Publicity Committees, he was elected Mayor of the borough at a time when the town's prosperity was at its peak and an era of success seemed assured. He was quick to turn every possible opportunity for publicity to advantage, and Ramsgate's top-hatted Mayor was pictured in many countries. He was almost ebullient in the way he went about his civic work and for that found his critics, but his one desire was to serve the town to which he had been sent in the way that fitted him best.

Within little more than a year after election to the mayoralty. A.B.C. found himself Ramsgate's war-time leader, a position which he held for four anxious and exacting years. In those days A.B.C. revealed quite another side to his character. His resolution, forthrightness of approach and determination, amounting almost to obstinacy, were just the qualities needed in those dark days. Sir Winston Churchill, Lord Morrison and Sir Eric Geddes were but a few of the national figures who came to Ramsgate in the early years of the war to hear in no uncertain terms from A.B.C. of the trials and tribulations to which the area was sub¬jected.

He was authorised by the Ministry of Information to visit Guildford and other areas to further local needs, and his air raid distress fund brought support from the U.S.A. His war-time memoirs "Midst Bands and Bombs" had a wide sale.

Appointed military welfare officer for the forces billeted in and about the town, A.B.C. received the honorary rank of captain for those services. He worked tirelessly to bring entertainment to the service camps throughout 'Hell Fire Corner,' journeying with his concert party night after night when bombing and shelling was not infrequent. Nothing daunted Arthur Kempe in those days for on top of all that social work he was a most able first citizen, leading the Council well in its deliberations during war and for the rehabilitation afterwards.

With the war over, the strain of those years quickly began to show in the man despite his strong physique, and in the early post-war period it became apparent that after some 15 years of devoted work in numerous spheres A.B.C.'s health was failing. It was typical of the man that, realising the restrictions placed upon him by indifferent health, he decided to quit public life, since nothing was good enough for A.B.C. but the best and he could no longer give it.

His outstanding public work was recognised by the Council in 1950 when they conferred upon him the Honorary Freedom of the Borough. But even then A.B.C, could not sit back and watch life go by. He revived with considerable success Ramsgate's Sports Week, took a great interest in sport and the development of youth welfare, and in fact continued to take a very keen interest in the town's affairs. still doing what he could in the promotion of anything likely to add to its welfare.

Arthur Kempe died as he hoped he would, in a quiet corner of the town which he loved, removed from the turbulence of the life that had been his. So passes a grand old man whose friendship and fellowship were enjoyed by thousands.



For more about Ramsgate visit ramsgateremembered.co.uk

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