By Jim Hollands
Pictures from the Horner Collection
Just recently, John Horner, who now lives in Hastings, loaned me two albums packed with photographs of his father and events in Rye and the local area in the 20th. century. Many are previously unpublished.
Alfred Horner, known to all Rye as Alf, was a friend of my father. They both worked in businesses in the town and later had their own grocery shops. They were in the Home Guard together in the war years and continued running shops in Rye until they died, within two months of each other, in 1969.
I came to know Alf personally around 1964 when Rye Movie Society came into being. He took a great interest in the Society and attended most meetings. I became very impressed with this quiet, courteous man. His devotion to the town and his customers came before his own comfort. By the time our paths crossed he was a very sick man with a progressing terminal illness that slowly affected his speech and made him difficult to understand, both his determination to go on serving Rye and his customers, stayed with him until the end.
I spent time with him on many occasions during those last few years, he never tired of talking about Rye, but was a very modest man and very rarely told of the great things he had done himself, those achievements I learned from others.
The Saddest Day
He did tell me of the saddest day of his life, when as a member of Rye St. John Ambulance Brigade, he attended the men being washed ashore after the Rye
Harbour Lifeboat Disaster of 1928. With tears in his eyes, 40 years on from that terrible day, he told me he performed artificial respiration for a long time on one of the drowned men whose legs he had massaged during a football match at Rye the previous week.
As a lad Alf fell in love with his native town and decided that the three things he would like to achieve in his lifetime was to run his own business, to serve on the Borough and to perhaps, one day be elected Mayor of Rye.
Alf Horner was brought up by his mother Elenor in a small newsagents in Landgate. Her father, Alf’s grandfather, was the Rev. John Horner. No doubt this influenced Alfred. He was a devout Christian, never swore or drank, was always ready to help his fellow man, never bore grudges and was always ready to turn the other cheek. He loved Rye and the people of Rye with passion.
He learned his trade as a grocer working for Vennalls in Rye High Street. He joined St John Ambulance at a time when this voluntary brigade was the town’s ambulance service. The were on call 24 hours a day, going to emergencies, delivering casualties to the Cottage Hospital and attending local sporting and other events.
By the time the shadow of Hitler darkened the skies over Sussex and Kent Alfred had married Rye girl Florence Blackhall and was running the business in Landgate.
He joined the Home Guard and is, no doubt among the men in the famous Rye Home Guard picture that epitomises the spirit of defiance that Rye people demonstrated when a German invasion seemed imminent.
Alfred Horner stood in the first Council election after the War ended in 1945, He was successful and became a Rye Borough Councillor
The Reverend D. G. Brooks described Alfred Horner as “Quiet, unassuming, entirely without pomposity, he was a great worker, ever ready to be of unselfish service to his fellow men. He never harboured bitterness, even when disappointed because of the unfaithfulness of others.”
The new Decade opened with Alfred Homer in the Mayoral seat. Alf was a true Ryer in all senses of the word. He loved the Town but more than that, he loved the people of Rye. He had a Grocery shop in Landgate. Alf was involved in many Rye Clubs an Societies, even before he became Mayor but during his Mayoralty he became associated with every single organisation in the Borough, opening Fete’s, presenting Prizes and attending social events virtually every day he was in office. It would probably be true to say, despite the qualities and achievements of the many fine Mayors this Town has produced, that Alfred Homer was the most popular Mayor of Rye in living memory.
The amazing collection of photographs spans all 65 years of Alf’s life. Many will be published in these pages during our 50th. Anniversary year.
“Rye’s Own” January 2015
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