FRIENDS of much-respected Bushey couple Albert and Jenny Ridgeley say "they will leave an irreplaceable gap" following their recent announcement to move to Cornwall to be closer to their son.

Mr and Mrs Ridgeley, parents of Andrew Ridgeley, who formed one half of eighties' pop sensation Wham!, have decided to make the move to Wadebridge in Cornwall after 32 years of Bushey life.

According to the couple, it was Andrew's decision they should move and in November they will say their goodbyes to Bushey.

Mr Ridgeley, 66, said: "The main reason for our move is our family. We want to be closer to Andrew and he wants us to be closer to him.

"People should realise the family is the basis of all human society and should play an important part in day-to-day lives.

"It is with much sadness we are leaving and we are going to miss the Bushey community.

"I would like to thank Bushey people for making us so welcome during our time here.

"However, it is not a total divorce from the area and we will be back to visit. We even want a copy of The Watford Observer sent to us each week so we can keep an eye on the village."

The couple's first house in Bushey was in Ashfield Avenue, where the band's number one hit, Careless Whisper, was written by Andrew and George Michael.

The family then moved to Chiltern Avenue, where they have lived for the past 18 years.

During the couple's time in Bushey, they have been actively involved in the community.

Among the many voluntary roles Mr Ridgeley has performed are being treasurer of Bushey Old People's Welfare Committee, part-time voluntary ambulance driver for the community, voluntary photographer for Bushey Festival and vice-chairman of Bushey police sector voluntary committee.

He co-ordinated the Use It or Lose It campaign after Bushey village shopkeepers approached him to promote their stores and was responsible, with help from Hertsmere borough councillors, for the provision of shoppers' parking in Bushey High Street.

He also managed to find the time to twin Bushey and Oxhey Rotary Club with a club in Landsberg, Germany.

Mrs Ridgeley, 55, has also made her mark on the community. She was a teacher at Bushey Heath JMI School, in The Rutts, Bushey, from 1972 to 1990, and was school governor there until September.

She has been involved in the biggest event in Bushey life, Bushey Festival, for many years, and was chairman of the group for one year. She was also a founder member of Bushey and District Decorative Fine Art Society and has been its chairman since 1989.

Very close friends of the couple have spoken of the sadness left in the couple's place when they leave.

Hertsmere borough councillors, husband and wife Michael and Miki Colne, are among those who will "miss them terribly".

Mr Colne said: "Albert and Jenny are our dearest friends and we will miss them, not only on a personal level, but on a community level as well.

"Their contribution to Bushey has been enormous and will be impossible to replace."

Mr Alec Just, a member of Friends of Bushey Museum, also speaks very highly of the couple and commends Mr Ridgeley for getting membership of the Friends of Bushey Museum 200 Club to an all-time high.

He said: "The club has been in existence for 20 years and in that time it has never had full membership.

"But when Albert was administrator for the group he managed to achieve this and in doing so helped raise a great deal of money for the museum.

"He is a man of many talents and is one of the most well known faces in Bushey.

"Everyone is sad to see them go. It will be a gap difficult to fill."

Another friend of the couple and also a founder member of Bushey Decorative and Fine Art Society, Mrs Dorothy Burr said: "Jenny is a very charismatic person which I think came across during the very successful Bushey Festival.

"She is also a very talented lady with many ideas and inspirations. She has this wonderful way of making people want to participate in events, she just gets them enthusiastic because she is so enthusiastic herself.

"They will be missed by everyone in Bushey, but we all wish them well in their new home."

The couple have said they will have many happy memories to take with them, some of them coming when they lived through the Wham! years.

Mrs Ridgeley said: "We often had fans outside the house waiting to catch a glimpse of Andrew and we had national newspaper journalists banging on our door day and night wanting to get the exclusive story on the band.

"Wham! was good while it lasted and we even went on two of their world tours. We will always treasure those memories as we experienced many things during that time we never would have under different circumstances.

"It was initially Andrew's idea we move and we didn't think it was a bad idea.

"People have been very surprised and amazed the Ridgeleys are leaving Bushey. In fact we are amazed ourselves.

"Our involvement in the community has been very important in our lives and brought us a great deal of pleasure.

"Albert wants to continue with Rotary and learn to play the clarinet in Cornwall and I want to continue with my oil paintings and writing.

"Eventually we will get involved with the community in Cornwall, but to start with we will find our feet and have some much-needed time for ourselves."

Converted for the new archive on 30 June 2000. Some images and formatting may have been lost in the conversion.