Tribute paid to Stamford community stalwart, businessman and family man Peter Spiegl
“He was never going to die on a working day - he saved trivial matters such as dying for the weekend!”
So said Hugo Spiegl as he paid tribute to his beloved father Peter, known to many as a hard-working businessman and family man who devoted much of his life to Stamford.
Peter passed away on Saturday, December 14 last year at the age of 91, just three years after he finally retired from running Spiegl Press Ltd on the Ryhall Road Industrial Estate.
“He was forced to retire by a triple heart bypass at the age of 88,” Hugo told this newspaper.
“He always complained he was robbed of two years of work because he wanted to work until he was 90!”
Peter started up the printing, book-binding and stationery company, which later included the Stamford Notebook Company brand, in the late 1950s.
He later became the Mayor of Stamford in 1980 and chair of South Kesteven District Council in the same decade.
Never one to shy away from a challenge, he was also a magistrate, freemason, past president of The Rotary Club of Stamford, and a governor of both the Stamford Endowed Schools and St Gilberts Primary School.
As if that wasn’t enough, he was the founding director of the Stamford Festival Association and former chairman of the local Conservative Association.
“Dad gave a huge amount to the town,” said Hugo. “He was one of those people that if he liked something and enjoyed it, he’d put everything into it. But he wouldn’t have anything to do with something he didn’t believe in or enjoy.”
Peter was also said to be a keen horse rider and animal lover. His one attempt at breeding horses led to the rare spectacle of twin foals being born, one of which had to be hand-reared by him and his wife Stella.
“He always loved animals,” added Hugo. “For many years he kept goats and dogs and occasionally we had chickens! He was a frustrated smallholder I think.”
Born on June 2, 1928, in north London, Peter went on to complete his national service in Essen, Germany, where he worked as a cypher clerk during the Berlin Airlift.
He then returned to work with Drivers of London, a printing and stationery manufacturers, before later marrying Stella in Rochester Cathedral in 1956.
Shortly afterwards, after falling in love with Stamford, they moved to St Mary’s Street and then to Blackfriars House on Kings Road.
In 1966, now with a young family, Peter and Stella moved to The Old Nursery House in Wothorpe where they lived for a further 41 years before moving to Easton on the Hill.
Peter had decided to start up Peter Spiegl & Co, later called Spiegl Press Ltd, in the late 1950s on St George’s Street where he had bought four properties.
With a factory built in the garden, the sprawling site resembled a rabbit warren which sparked a memorable incident in the 1970s.
“One night a policeman on patrol was checking doorways and found the door open,” said Hugo. “He went in, walked further and further inside, and ended up getting hopelessly lost. He had to radio the control room and they got dad to go in and find him!”
Eventually the business outgrew the premises and they moved to the current location off Ryhall Road.
The homes on St George’s Street were returned to residential use, and swiftly attracted buyers with their quirky gas lamps, fireplaces and staircases.
Over the years Peter and his team had to adapt to the changing technology with the arrival firstly of computers and then the internet.
“Dad wasn’t really computer literate but he did understand the uses and need of them,” said Hugo.
“He was never against progress and he recognised that the world was changing. It just wasn’t an age that he particularly wanted because he enjoyed the good old days of print.”
Hugo said his dad was heartened when their Stamford Notebook Company brand started performing well as it showed there was still a market for such products, as also indicated by the rising sales of fountain pens.
Peter still involved himself in the business many years after he could have retired, coming into the office every day and looking after certain clients.
“His real skill was his ability to sell,” said Hugo. “He was an extremely competent salesman at the end of the day and that is the cornerstone of a good businessman.”
Of the many things he tried his hand at, only a few came up short in the quality department.
“He was a keen pipe smoker and I remember him trying to make his own tobacco,” recalled Hugo. “It didn’t work out. I think it was like trying to smoke leaves!
“He made goat’s cheese, which was good, but his horticulture went as far as growing artichokes, which weren’t great at all.”
Paying tribute to his dad, who received a minute’s silence at the Stamford Town Council meeting on Tuesday (January 28), Hugo said: “He was very genuine, very straightforward and very honest. He was always very supportive of his family and always very keen that we did the best that we can. We all live locally and that’s a reflection that the acorn doesn’t fall far from the tree.
“His great satisfaction was to establish a business that continues and that is what we have endeavoured to do, and keep the name over the door."
Hugo added: “We are incredibly grateful for all the kind words and messages from all parts of our community.”
Peter is survived by his wife Stella and children Philippa, Maxwell, Isobel and Hugo.