A SENSE of humour proved essential for Maxwell Barker Hunt in his job as a valuation officer, particularly when he came up against Ken Wilde, owner of Stott Hall Farm which stands in the middle of the M62.
Negotiations with Mr Wilde were fraught, the farmer refusing to accept the price for his land which the valuation office put on it.
Ultimately, the motorway was split, the east and west carriageways passing on either side of the farm, and an underpass built for the cattle.
Mr Hunt’s ability to maintain a sense of humour while coping with adversity was seen in the memoir he wrote about his war-time service with the Indian Army in Burma; written when he was in his 70s, it consists mostly of light-hearted anecdotes recounting mishaps and japes and narrow escapes.
Before arriving in India, his unit was sent to South Africa, and preparing a camp, opened the folded-up tents to find them full of giant spiders, later identified as tarantulas. Hazards in India and Burma included cobras, deadly yellow snakes which fell from trees, scorpions in boots, tigers, leeches, and lots of Japanese.
Mr Hunt and his elder sister Betty were the children of John and Maggie Hunt, their father being an accountant at County Hall, Wakefield.
His first school was Snapethorpe Council School where a Dickensian headmaster remained rooted in his memory for frequently canning miscreants in front of the whole school.
From there he won a place at the city’s Queen Elizabeth Grammar School, but because his father wanted him to start training as a chartered surveyor, he left at 16 for a job at the Wakefield Building Society, and was then given a position with the Valuation Office.
In 1941 and aged 19, Mr Hunt volunteered with two friends to join the Royal Air Force to train as pilots, but he was found to be colour blind and was turned down. The three opted for the Royal Artillery and were sent out to South Africa and onward to India.
Having been commissioned, Mr Hunt chose to join an Indian regiment as he felt he looked too young, despite having grown a moustache, to command seasoned British troops who had fought in the Arakan campaign. This meant that he had to learn Urdu and then give lectures, usually about guns.
He served in Burma, became a Captain, was repatriated from Rangoon and returned to England – one of the very few unscathed from that theatre.
He rejoined the Valuation Office, working first in Doncaster, then Pontefract when he received promotion and was transferred to Huddersfield.
There he dealt with the acquisition of land for the new M62 motorway, and encountered the determined Mr Wilde.
On many other occasions, he needed to deploy his tact, patience, humour and charm.
Promoted to assistant district valuer in Bradford, he later worked with the superintendent valuer in Leeds before being made district valuer in Wakefield.
He was 45 when he met Maureen Wilkinson at the Windmill pub in Lynton, near Wetherby, and they were married the following year, 1968.
Tennis and golf were his preferred sports. He belonged to Sandal Tennis Club before joining Wakefield Golf Club, the importance of the club house eclipsing the course as he got older.
A freemason, for 62 years he was a member of the Nelson of the Nile Lodge, becoming Past Provincial Grand Superintendent of Works.
After his retirement he developed rheumatoid arthritis but he never allowed it to defeat him. In his early 70s he underwent operations for a knee and shoulder replacement, and despite other ailments he remained robust and active, a man of character, known for his humour and repertoire of off-the-cuff quips and sayings.
His last words in hospital before dying peacefully in his sleep at the age of 90 were “Game over”.
Mr Hunt is survived by his wife and their sons, Graham and Andrew.
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