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Tony Speller, former North Devon MP, dies aged 83

By North Devon Journal  |  Posted: February 21, 2013

COUNCILLOR: Tony Speller when he was co-opted on to Newton St Cyres Parish Council.

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THE former Conservative MP for North Devon, Tony Speller, has died aged 83.

Mr Speller died last Friday at Lucerne House nursing home in Exeter after a long illness.

He served as the Conservative MP for North Devon under Margaret Thatcher from 1979 until he was defeated by Liberal Democrat MP Nick Harvey in 1992.

Born in Exeter on June 12 1929, Anthony Speller studied at Exeter School and later the University of Exeter and did his national service in the Devonshire Regiment.

As a young serviceman Mr Speller was involved in relief efforts after the Lynmouth floods in 1952. He was one of the army officers sent to help with the rescue operation along with a convoy of trucks.

But his dream of a career in the army was ended after a car accident in which he injured his arm and shoulder.

Mr Speller then spent time working in Nigeria in the marketing and exports industry for the UK government. It was here he met his wife Maureen and they were married in Nigeria in 1962.

They moved back to Exeter shortly after their marriage where Mr Speller helped run his family's hotel, the Bystock Hotel in Bystock Terrace.

He then set up his own business, called Copyshops, which offered photocopying services and sold stationery. The business grew and before long there were a number of Copyshops stores across the region, including one in Barnstaple.

Mr Speller spent several years as an Exeter city councillor before fighting the North Devon parliamentary seat for the Conservatives in 1974.

He lost to Liberal Jeremy Thorpe but spent the next five years campaigning before being elected as MP for North Devon in 1979.

Alec Petersgill, who lives in Bideford, was Mr Speller's Conservative agent between 1975 and 1990. He said Mr Speller was a Devonshire man born and bred and was proud to represent North Devon.

He said: "Tony was most proud of being North Devon's champion and cheerleader in Westminster, Whitehall and the wider world.

"He never lost an opportunity of promoting North Devon as a wonderful place to live, work and do business, all of which he did with tremendous energy and enthusiasm."

Chris Rowland, constituency organiser at the North Devon Conservative Association, said: "Tony was a wonderful champion for all his constituents in North Devon; one of his crowning legacies was securing the construction of the long awaited North Devon Link Road.

"He had a great many friends in the association and will be sorely missed. All members of the association send much sympathy to Tony's family in these sad times."

After his retirement, Mr Speller was co-opted on to Newton St Cyres Parish Council and was able to continue his love of politics by helping out in the village where he lived.

Mr Speller had five children and 12 grandchildren and lived in Newton St Cyres with Maureen.

His funeral will be held on March 4 in the Church of the Sacred Heart in South Street, Exeter, at 10am.

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