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Tributes to former teacher and poet Nick Matthews from Sandwich

By Eleanor Perkins

Poems written by retired teacher Nick Matthews will not be left unread after his wife has pledged to publish them in his memory.

The 66-year-old, of New Romney Place, Sandwich, died peacefully with his family around him at the QEQM Hospital in Margate.

His wife, Joy, 63, has described him as a “one-off” who loved to talk to everyone.

Nick Matthews and wife Joy on a cruise earlier this year
Nick Matthews and wife Joy on a cruise earlier this year

She told this newspaper she plans to share his unpublished poems in a book which will raise money for the Motor Neurone Disease Association (MNDA), after he received a late diagnosis of the condition in October this year.

She said: “I will remember him for the fun and the laughter.

“He was a very generous and big-hearted man and could be truly outrageous.

“He’ll be remembered for the things he did. He was well known around Sandwich and loved to talk to everyone.

“He was particularly known for his poetry and loved photography, just generally an artistic person.

“I know a lot of his poems are on his laptop. His brother Simon and I will be doing something with them in his memory.”

Mr Matthews was a much-loved English teacher at Sandwich Technology School for 28 years, remembered by many of his pupils who would stop him in the streets recalling his quirky ways. He also ran the library and was a year head.

He finished his career teaching social studies at the Chaucer School in Canterbury. After his retirement in 2011, he took up poetry and even had his work published.

His first poetry book When Will We Ever Learn? was initially produced in April 2014 as a tribute to the thousands who died on the battlefields of The Somme, including his great uncle Albert. He sold 200 self-published copies before Austin Macauley Publishers agreed to produce more.

Nick Matthews' first poetry book was When Will We Ever Learn?
Nick Matthews' first poetry book was When Will We Ever Learn?

He also published his second poetry book Twenty One Thousand Revolutions but never got to finish his third, which he had planned to call Vastly Azure Skies.

Mr Matthews had little use of his hands and arms due to Post Polio Syndrome, which he developed about three years ago.

It was thought to be a result of polio in his leg when he was 11 months old but may have contributed to the late diagnosis of MND.

Earlier this year, he scribed a poem about the staff at Nationwide in Sandwich who helped him because he was unable to hold a pen.

Staff loved it so much they placed it on the counter in the branch. They awarded him £500 in return which he donated to Age Concern Sandwich.

Day centre manager at Age Concern Sandwich, Debbie Hayward, who was also taught by Mr Matthews has paid tribute to him.

She said: “He was a lovely man, always approachable and would happily spend time talking to you about any topic.

“He popped into Age Concern regularly and we chatted about school and his passion for poetry and life in general. He was always thinking of others above all of his problems. He was a true inspiration.”

Mrs Matthews said: “Despite his difficulties with certain things, he was still amazingly positive and very fun loving. Lots of people have described him as off beat, a one-off.

“He loved being with the grandchildren. He loved music and radio and to socialise and talk to people. He talked to anybody.”

Staff at Nationwide in Sandwich with poet Nick Matthews
Staff at Nationwide in Sandwich with poet Nick Matthews

He met Joy, his second wife, in 1996 after she responded to an advert in the Mercury’s sister paper, the Kentish Gazette.

“He described himself as a fun Libran,” she said.

She called the number in the advert which led to a voice recording.

“He said how he loved France and about his two boys. He was into sailing at the time.”
They enjoyed their first date at a pub in Littlebourne.

“It felt like we had an unfinished conversation and a lot more to talk about.”

They married three years later and moved to Sandwich in 2007, a town they both love.

As well as being a poet, Mr Matthews was also a published photographer and designed card models of buildings such as St Peter’s Church, Sandwich. He enjoyed painting in watercolour and played the guitar.

One of his favourite past times were holidays in France where he once owned a property in the countryside near Albi.

The couple recently enjoyed their first cruise together to Scotland and Iceland.

He leaves sons, Chris, 39, and Andy, 37, step son Ben, 37, and step-daughter Emily, 35 and three grandchildren Luke, 11, Isla, four and two-year-old Effie.

Mrs Matthews has thanked all family and friends for their support.

Mr Matthews funeral is on Tuesday, December 19. For full details call 01304 375701.

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