Horse-drawn cortege leads carriage-driver Rod Ousbey to final resting place
Rod Ousbey was an expert carriage builder who died on Christmas Day. His funeral took place last Wednesday– with a horse-drawn cortege, naturally. His brother Clive pays tribute.
ROD was born in Warwick in August 1949, but by 1964 the family were in Newbold-on-Stour.
In his youth, Rod was part of a team who set a new world record for marathon table-tennis playing.
A member of Shipston-on-Stour youth club, he later became treasurer to the National Association of Youth Clubs and a delegate to an international youth conference in Germany.
Doing his Duke of Edinburgh award, his group just missed out on setting a new under-21s record for the Pennine Way due to a foot-and-mouth outbreak. Rod also took part in road-walking races, rock climbing – all over the country and on the continent – and fishing, the latter becoming a lifelong love.
He started working for his father, who could paint to a very high standard having trained as a coach-painter on car bodywork in the 1930s. In the early 70s, they started restoring horse-drawn vehicles and the occasional vintage car, with that work eventually taking over from the display stands that were their normal business.
In 1973, Rod moved from the family home to a flat in Shipston, sharing with two other bachelors. There were many parties and Friday night was poker night, often with US servicemen from Upper Heyford.
During this period he started shotgun-shooting, both clay and game, which became another lifelong passion to add to his fishing and love of folk music. For the latter, he often went to see bands, particularly at the Cherry Trees, near Alcester.
Before meeting Gill, Rod knew nothing about a carriage’s “engine” – but she lived and breathed horses. They settled into married life and in 1978 bought a Welsh cob, Bobby, complete with carriage and harness, and learned to drive.
A couple of years later they moved to Withybrook, near Coventry, where they set up in business, with Rod restoring carriages and Gill running a livery stables.
Rod became proficient at carriage-driving trials and he built a specialised cross-country vehicle he called “The Chariot” in which he won the national championships’ novice horse class in their second year.
The trials were often three-day events so the couple set up Ousbey’s Harness Room to have trade stands at the big events.
The Duke of Edinburgh often competed at the events and sometimes they would bump into him and chat.
Apart from Rod’s restoration and painting work he also built a new road coach, and made fibreglass horses and reindeer for museums and exhibitions. These included one outside the Racehorse pub in Warwick which was only taken down three years ago when it was refurbished.
After he and Gill went their separate ways, Rod returned to Newbold, where his mother still lived, his father having died a little while earlier. He started doing horse-drawn weddings and special occasions and got two bay Gelderlander horses and a Landau carriage to restore and use.
Having almost stopped doing driving trials, he began taking part in one-day indoor trials. Over the years many friends groomed for him, whether for competition, work or pleasure.
In 2009 Rod was proud to receive the Coachmakers’ Carriage Driving Award, given by the Worshipful Company of Coachmakers and Coach Harness Makers and presented by the Duke of Edinburgh.
He finally gave up horses around seven years ago due to increasing health problems, which
also affected his ability to shoot and fish, seeing him do less of both.
The last year saw Rod’s health issues worsen further and he had several spells in hospital. Unfortunately he caught Covid-19 on top of these and died in Warwick Hospital on Christmas Day.
Being very convivial and well-respected among carriage people, Rod was a popular guest at many events such as the luncheons of the Worshipful Company of Wheelwrights.
He was also well known around the districtand will be long remembered by all who met him.