JANE ARMITAGE visited the village of Huby, near Easingwold, and found a friendly, thriving community, whose origins go back to the time of the Vikings.

THE village of Huby is pleasantly situated about nine miles to the north of York.

Originally a Danish settlement, most likely named after a leader called Hu or Hugh, it has had mixed fortunes over the centuries.

In 1625, the plague entered the village claiming many lives.

Roy Muir, who has lived here since 1937, explained: "The story goes that one street entirely escaped the plague. Afterwards it was given the name of Gracious Street."

Roy has been actively involved in the community for a long time, having been a parish councillor for 53 years.

"When I was elected, I was only 19 - the youngest councillor in North Yorkshire. I was also church warden for 29 years, although we don't actually have a church in the village. It is a combined parish with Sutton-on-Forest. We do have a school though, a very good one. I was a governor for 15 years."

In addition, Roy was also instrumental in setting up the local amateur dramatic society. "We started up 60 years ago. The very first concert we did was for Wings for Victory week and was attended by the Lord Mayor of York. After a few years, we started doing pantos. I used to play the Dame."

As if all this wasn't enough to keep most people busy, Roy also found time to be a voluntary driver for the ambulance service. "When I got to 70, I was put on the vampire run and collected blood for a while."

In fact, Roy did this voluntary work for 17 years and was awarded a plaque in recognition of his services. Roy and his wife are looking forward to celebrating their diamond wedding later this year.

Huby, like many villages, has grown considerably in recent years. There are several businesses, including a garage, builder, plumber, hairdresser, carpenter and cabinet maker. There is a thriving fish and chip shop and two pubs.

The Star is popular with the younger end, having darts and pool plus karaoke nights. The New Inn situated in the main street is managed by Sarah Hunt.

"My parents used to own the pub and when they sold it, the new owners took me on as manager," she said. "I think I've become part of the fixtures and fittings."

The pub is around 500 years old and was formerly an old coaching inn. It is very cosy and inviting inside and Sarah believes it typifies everyone's idea of a traditional country pub. "There is a good choice of food, good quality, home-cooked meals. Our steak pie and beef wellington are always popular. We cater for early birds, too, by opening at 5.30 every evening."

David and Lesley Barker used to live in Hartlepool. However it was always their dream to have their own business and live in a rural location. They were delighted when the shop at Huby came on the market 15 years ago. "We knew it would be a challenge being our first business," said Lesley. "But the previous owners gave us a lot of help and support."

The shop is a newsagent's, off-licence and general store, with a wide range of goods. David and Lesley believe the role of the village shop is not simply to sell everything under the sun. "It should play an active role in the community," said David. "Be a place where people can meet for a chat and keep up with local events."

In many villages fortunate enough to still have a shop and post office, the two are combined. Not so in Huby. Here the post office is run by 80-year-old Joan Holder.

"Previously, we lived in Africa, where I worked for the government, but when we came to this country, my husband was keen to have a post office and sweetie shop."

Since her husband died, Joan has run the post office herself. "It's hard work and there isn't much time for hobbies. I like to read, though, and I used to play golf, but don't really have much spare time now. Running the post office is a full-time job."

Huby is the kind of village where people look out for each other, having a very active and dedicated Neighbourhood Watch scheme. The committee meets in the WI hall, which was formerly the primitive chapel. This building and the nearby village hall between them accommodate a wide variety of interests, ranging from the playgroup through karate and the Darby and Joan club.

The village has a good sports field with football and cricket teams. Fundraising events are presently underway to provide new play equipment for the children.

There is a bowling club of which Eddie Oliver was a founder member. Bowling was one of his favourite hobbies and numerous cups and trophies show he was good at it. For most of his 88 years, widower Eddie has been involved in many village activities, including being a parish councillor for 50 years. "They said about the only thing I haven't done is join the WI."

A bit of a joker, Eddie has some fond memories of his time in the Home Guard. "I remember the time one of my mates dressed up as a ghost in the church at Sutton, scared the life out of us it did. We liked a bit of fun, even in war time."

Eddie has been a staunch Methodist all his life and his Christian faith has been a great strength over the years. "I was a circuit steward for a while and still go to the chapel every week. I gave a talk there once on the history of the village dressed up as Old Mother Riley. The costume was over 100 years old."

Although Eddie has now given up much of his involvement in village affairs, he is still a trustee of the playing fields association and he likes a bit of gardening. He also enjoys cultivating his own house plants and has a lovely collection of cyclamen on his window sill.

Huby is a friendly, thriving community with activities for all age groups. No doubt the village's long-gone Danish namesake would have been well pleased.

Updated: 09:27 Wednesday, March 10, 2004