NORTHWICH members of a community of retired people devoted to lifelong learning have erected a touching memorial to two of the group's founders.

Eric and Margaret Thomas, from Whitegate, helped to set up the Northwich branch of U3A after friends took them to a similar meeting while on holiday in Australia in 1999.

Now, a new bench dedicated to the dynamic couple's memory has been installed by current U3A members on the Whitegate Way, about one kilometre in the direction of Cuddington from Whitegate station, close to where they built their family home. 

The location is especally fitting, as Eric and Margaret’s home was the venue of the first ever U3A steering group meeting in November 1999.

Northwich U3A member and friend of the couple, John Sykes, said: “I knew Eric and Margaret very well.

“Eric died about 5 years ago now, and Margaret 18 months ago.

“Eric ran the German conversation group when we first got going. He worked in the chemical industry, where German is the best foreign language to know.

“Margaret would think nothing of driving their big Ford with a caravan on the back, even when she was quite an old lady. That was no problem to her.

“They both loved sailing down in the Mediterranean. Very often for their family holidays they would tow their Mirror dinghy down to France, the boat full of equipment, and with the three kids piled in.”

Formerly known as the University of the Third Age, U3A is an international organisation which provides 400,000 retired people worldwide with a range of educational, creative and recreational activities.

Northwich U3A currently runs more than 30 activity groups for its 430 members.

Northwich U3A member, Janice Jackson, said: “The bench will be much appreciated by all those who wish to sit and rest awhile.

“Our Tuesday Striders walking group have been taking advantage of the bench already.”