Terry Keegan 1931-2012

Terry Keegan

My friend Terry Keegan, who has died of cancer aged 81, was an enthusiastic collector and conserver of often ignored items of British heritage and the founder of several special-interest amenity groups. He was long associated with the world of heavy horses, their harness and equipment, and later in life with the conservation of such roadside heritage features as milestones, signposts and other waymarkers.

Of Scottish and Irish parentage, Terry was born in Dublin, and during the second world war moved from one place to another, in Ireland, Scotland and England, with his family. Evacuation to his uncle's farm in Kinross gave him a lifelong love of things Scottish. He studied economics at the London School of Economics before joining the Guinness brewing company. In 1956 he married Mary and set up home in London.

Later, Terry's work as a representative for Guinness, with the Black Country in his patch, took him into pubs where the horse brasses on display reflected not only a bygone age, but also the products of local industry. The collecting habits of his childhood found a new focus horse equipment and country artefacts began to accumulate.

In 1966 the family moved to a 15-acre smallholding at Clows Top, on the Shropshire-Worcestershire border, which they turned into a farm museum and milk bar. This brought Terry many contacts and a growing interest in carthorse harness and traditions, which led, via considerable research in field and pub, to his book The Heavy Horse, Its Harness and Harness Decoration, published in 1973 and reprinted four times.

Terry developed his skills as a horse-brass designer and limited commemorative editions provided the backbone of a family business, the Heavy Horse Enthusiast. He also acted as a consultant to Heavy Horse World, the leading magazine in its sector, for many years.

An open letter he sent to fellow enthusiasts in 1975 was the start of the National Horse Brass Society, and in 1990 he applied the same approach to begin the Cast Iron Seat Society. The enthusiasm of his final years was the Milestone Society, which he co-founded in 2000 with a focus on preservation of milestones in situ rather than collection and removal. Terry led the Worcestershire group on a number of restoration projects, including a Diamond Jubilee stone on the A449 at Claines, three miles north of Worcester. Like so many other stones, it serves as an enduring memorial to him.

Photo of the Diamond Jubilee 'Bradley' style milestone taken in 2018
Photo of the Diamond Jubilee 'Bradley' style milestone taken in 2018

Terry is survived by Mary and their children Roy, Ricky and Alison; and by his brothers, Alan and Geoff, and sister, Hazel.

David Viner

Courtesy The Guardian, obituary 21 July 2012