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Farewell to magical toy shop owner Angela

TOY shop owner Angela Balfour Kinnear, who was a hugely popular figure in Shipston, has died at the age of 85. Here, her family pay tribute to her.

Angela was born on 22nd August 1935 in Sherborne, Dorset. By the beginning of the war, Angela and her younger brother Robert had moved with their mother to the village of Pitstone in Buckinghamshire, where they lived in a cottage on a farm.

After her mother remarried, Angela’s brother Berkeley and sister Diana were born. Nicknamed Tiddly, Angela loved to ride and was a great horsewoman, taking part in many events, and sometimes even took her horse with her on the train.

By 1958, she had met Charles Balfour Kinnear, a friend of her brother Robert from the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst. They married soon afterwards and had two children, Caroline in 1963 and Annabel in 1965.

In 1968, Angela and the girls moved to Kensington after Angela fell in love with Bill. The couple had Katie in 1970 but after separating, Angela and the girls moved to Chalfont St Giles, where she opened a restaurant with her brother Berkeley.

By 1977 it was time for a change and Angela and the girls moved to Shipston-on-Stour to open a toy shop. However, this was no ordinary toy shop, and over the next 20 years, with Angela at the helm, the Walrus became a magical place and the hub of much of the social life in the town.

With its five rooms, packed with a cornucopia of delights, the Walrus became a place where generations of children made lifelong memories – and often a lifelong friend in Angela. Parents would leave their children for hours to discover the books, toys, dolls’ houses, pottery room, the cats and, of course, the giant Walrus himself.

Angela in younger days.
Angela in younger days.

Shoppers came from far and wide and Angela took a genuine interest in people and their lives, often recalling even the smallest of details. She was perceptive and kind and hugely generous with her time and love and the Walrus was very much an expression of that.

Described by her good friend Baggy Saunders as “the fairy godmother of Shipston”, Angela was instrumental in so many of the things residents know and love about the town.

It is said that she practically invented late-night shopping by opening the shop after hours on Christmas Eve. The children could see Father Christmas in his grotto at the back of the shop, while the parents and grandparents enjoyed glasses of mulled wine. It soon became a “must attend” tradition.

When she was not running the shop or raising her daughters, Angela was busy on the PTA, and she was later a governor at the high school and instrumental in the launch of Shipston Home Nursing. On launch day, Angela organised 100 green balloons – the Shipston Home Nursing colour – and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang parked in the square.

Angela was part of many subsequent events for Shipston Home Nursing, including the plant sale, the designer sale at Darlingscott, and bucket collections in Sainsbury’s. It was fitting that Shipston Home Nurses were there to help with her care at home for her last few days.

The Walrus years ended in 1998, but not before Angela helped create and fundraise for the Theo Trust. She moved to nearby Stretton-on-Fosse, and even in retirement was always busy, bringing her magic to a new generation of the family with the arrival of five grandchildren – George, Henry, Bethany, Jasmine and Oakley.

Angela unofficially “adopted” Becca and Andy O’Leary, who both lost their parents in their teens, and subsequently became adopted grandmother to their children Billy and Charlie.

Angela didn’t conform: she was a truly free spirit and wherever she went she created magic. Wild, silly and delightful exploits included dragging the children up Dovers Hill on their skateboards behind the car just so that they could whizz back down.

The world seems a little less magical without her but the memories and spirit she leaves behind will live on.

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