My Dad – Gary Bourn’s Tribute

For those that were unable to attend the Memorial Service here is Gary Bourn’s Tribute to his Dad

Michael, Mick, Mike, Ernie, Mick the Milk, Mr Bourn, Sub Officer Bourn and even Russ Abbott are some of the names you have known my Dad by – His actual name was George Michael Albert – but to make this easy for me to do, and as he was mine, I will refer to him simply as “Dad”.

Dad was born on the 16 August 1938. He was Ethel and Franks, aka Pop-Pop’s, third child and only son and a little brother for his sisters Audrey and Margaret. They all grew up in the family home at number 4 Richmond Villas or as we know it 17 Rope Walk.

I was told of him playing in the street with the Bourne family – that’s Bourn with an E – where a rope was put across the road and used for skipping. When asking Dad about this he told me that the rope was tied to a post at one side of the street and that it was really heavy to turn.

He also spoke of another young lad that played in the street with him called Graham, whom he nicknamed “Smiler”. He is still known by this name today and I only actually met him for the first time recently.

Dad went to school at Rye Primary and in 1948 the school football team consisting of Ivan Polley, Brian Booth, Colin Paine and Dad, to name but a few, played 25 matches and were unbeaten when winning the league and cup double. Sadly I believe the team only played for one year.

His secondary education was conducted at Rye Secondary as he had failed the 11 plus entrance exam for the Grammar School.

Dad’s first job was working with his Father in the building trade. He would always tell us kids about the hand cart they had, to put their tools and materials into get to their jobs.

Dad and his hand cart did have an admirer which later in life turned out to be Mum.

Pop-pop was in the fire service and at the tender age of 17 Dad joined him.

In 1956 at 2 am he went to his first major fire at Walter Stocks, allegedly with his fire boots on the wrong feet!

This may not be true but I do know about his under pants being on the outside of his trousers in true superman style at another incident.

His early days in the service were interrupted by his national service which in part was spent in Aden.

Dad always told us that whilst he was out there, and I quote “I was up to my neck in muck and bullets” – but due to the grin on his face I am sure that this was a slight exaggeration.

He also impressed us kids with his fluent Arabic. Well actually two words just rotated. Alaikum Salaam and Salaam Alaikum.  Well it sounded impressive when you were young.

During this period he also contracted “Buegers Disease” which is to do with bad blood circulation and resulted in a war pension, tablets for life, several toes removed, ulcers, maybe a pair of the ugliest feet I have seen, bad bouts of cramp and several visits to Guy’s Hospital in London.

As Mum didn’t drive I remember Mick Wood and Mick Hall used to take us up to see him. Dad told us that whilst in there the newspaper trolley would come around in the mornings with the same person returning later to collect the horse racing betting slip from you for that day-  How times have changed.

Once out of national service normal life resumed with a good balance of building work, fire service and socialising especially with Colin Paine or “Cus” as he was called.

He was also involved in the Royal British Legion and carried the standard for them.

On one occasion in 2001 he went to the Royal Albert Hall and carried the standard in the Festival of Remembrance which is always held there and shown on television.

Dad also carried the union jack on various occasions which he thought was a great honour & did it with pride.

He was chairman of both the playgroup in Rye and Iden football club. Social life was a busy pastime with snooker, darts and putting all being played at various times. Darts was a serious thing for Dad as with good friends Mick Hall, Mick Dixon, Dave Sheppard, Derek Cleaves, Dennis Bryant, Cliff and Annette Bull to name but a few he played both on a Tuesday and Friday night along with Super League for Rye.

Dad did try his hand at golf with three of the above mentioned people but he could never decide if he wanted to be left or right handed so getting from tee to green proved difficult but his putting was good as he played in the Rye putting league down on the Salts.

Mum& Dad plus hand cart and the push bike – in case of a fire call – started courting and were married on 9 December 1961.

Dad being the adventurous type set up home at number 1 Richmond Villas or 11 Rope Walk, all of 3 house’s from his parents.

The first of their 3 children Paula, was born in 1963, shortly followed by myself in 1966. With these extra mouths to feed a change of career was needed and “Ernie” was created.

Winters Dairy was also in Rope Walk so travelling to work was easy and Dad soon became one of only two people that learnt all the rounds in order to cover holidays.

There are many stories from this part of his life but a few are as follows.

40 plus years ago an irate lady contacted the dairy to tell them the cream they had supplied for her sons christening party was off and what was she to do. Dad, taking more cream with him, went to her aid and after pointing out, diplomatically, that she had over whipped it, he stood there and did the new one for her.

Another story was one snowy morning whilst battling across fields to Udimore to deliver the milk by sled one elderly lady turned round to Dad to say she would have preferred gold top to silver!

In 1986, when Martin Goldfinch was just 8 years old he also remembers helping Dad deliver milk by sled along Leasam Lane.

Staying on the snowy theme and with many roads blocked I remember going with Dad down to Westlake’s at Rye Harbour Road to assist with a milk delivery brought in by helicopter.

Other memories are of Dad thumbing through the books the night before so he knew what was what for the morning, the magic wallet the milkmen used to have to collect their money and of waking me up at 4 am to go on the rounds with him which, in the summer time was great but in winter, freezing cold with the cream frozen out of the tops of the bottles it wasn’t much fun at all!

At these times the welcome stops of Mrs Wybourne at Udimore for tea and toast and Grey Friars for self service coffee were a milkman’s best friend.

Dad loved the job but with his circulation issues he often sat at home after his round rubbing his feet with Vaseline or redressing the ulcer that he often had.

Bill Walters reminded me that Dad would sometimes finish his rounds stating that he had a boot full of blood!!

Dad also did a bit of moonlighting with the driving of coaches for Alec Henshaw and driving the scrap metal lorry for Harry Hooker.

The family was not complete just yet and whilst still on the milk, Philip was born, in 1973.

With this came another problem with the home in Rope Walk being too small and we all moved to the new family home in Udimore Road.

Family holidays were spent “abroad” in the Isle of White well as Dad always said “it’s over the water”.

Auntie Margaret and Uncle Arthur with Janet and Deborah came with us on several occasions to make it a bigger family affair.

Due to the milk round starting early it meant Dad finished early which enabled myself and Paula to come home from school for lunch.

Dad and Sid Kingham, whose son Steve was my age, took it in turns to pick us up.

One day we all got out of the car with Paula slamming the door shut and off we went. On getting home from school later that day we found Dad in the chair with this huge metal splint on his little finger. It turned out that he was trying to shut the door at the same time Paula was and his little finger got in the way. It always had a curve to it after that!!

There were not many family outings as with Dads main job and getting up early, not being able to book off call from the fire service, as many of us know about, and the large vegetable garden at home to tend to,time was at a premium. Then there were nights Dad had darts to play and don’t forget fire drill to attend.

In the Easter of 1988 Winters Dairy closed and another occupation was needed. This turned out to be his own painting and decorating business which he was still doing a year before he passed away. Dad did pass this skill onto me so he didn’t need to help me with any decorating but Philip for some reason never quite got it and Dad would often give him a hand. Funny but they always said I was the clever one!!

All through the milk days and for the early part of the decorating business Dads big love was the fire service. As I said he joined at 17 and retired in Feb 1994 after getting a 6 months extension to complete 35 years as in those days retirement was at age 55. He became Sub officer of the station in 1978 and held that post until he retired.

Now there are many and I MEAN many stories from this chapter of his life with fires, rescues, crashes (that’s him and his machines) – open days to run, fund raisers, competition drills to take part in – some of which they won – brigade dart tournaments, stool ball matches all which could be talked about.

The fire I most remember was at Deans in Tower Street where sadly two children died.  I was out in town that night with some friends and on hearing the noise& commotion went to see what was going on.

Now Dad never showed his feelings but on seeing that I was okay gave me a big hug in the middle of the street.

I remember him attending a fire call at the old station on his push bike and when going around Bannister’s corner, which was a two way street at this time, he managed to crash into a car.

Two fund raising stories come to mind with the first in August 1993 the crew from Rye laid hose from Bohemia Road station to Rye station via Pett Level. This was not one massive hose of approximately 13 miles but just over 1000 lengths laid out and rolled up as they went. Dad was a little crafty as he stayed at Rye to keep the pump on the run and only joined them at Winchelsea Beach.

The one thing Dad loved doing the most was helping out Father Christmas with his deliveries on Christmas morning. He took to this “like a duck to water” and going to Jeakes House to hand out gifts at the breakfast tables was always a favourite.

Open days at the station were good community events with one particular one that sticks in everybody’s mind. Picture the scene – Mick Wood, the casualty in the tower, thick black smoke and flames coming from the window courtesy of some chemicals from a crew member’s place of work.

The call went out, the two engines parked at the post office came racing to the yard to perform heroics only to find their path blocked by the train barriers in the down position.

The smoke and flames could be seen to be getting worse and when they arrived and rescued Mick, one on-looker commented: how wonderful and realistic his black make up was. Well as various officers left they just looked at Dad and said “sort it out”.

Melted electric cables and wooden windows sills soon replaced meant you would never have known anything had happened.

Another fire was on New Year’s Eve at a property near the Peace and Plenty pub; at midnight Dad left an officer at the fire, which was all but out, so he and the crew could enjoy a New Year’s drink together. A young girl was at the pub with her parents on this night and remembers the fire fighters coming in. This young girl later became my brother’s wife Caroline.

When I joined whole time the more senior crew who knew Dad very well remembered 2 things about him. One being that he hated asking for the help from other crews as he believed HIS crew could deal with it &secondly, he would turn up for stand-by duties in Hastings still wearing his deer stalker hat. Some even reckoned it was always under his fire helmet.

On one occasion Dad had a surprise when unbeknown to him a do was organised, and the Mayor who at the time was Frank Palmer, presented him with a pottery plate to celebrate 30 years of service.

Another award followed towards the end of his career when on12 June 1993 Dad was awarded the MBE for his service to the local community.  He was invited to Buckingham Palace to collect the award but as he had been to a garden party and met the Queen before, he decided that having earned the award in Rye,it would be given to him in Rye.

Dad’s love of the service faded a little when he came to see the fire at Martyn Channons. All he could see was us standing outside and in his words “launching it” by squirting lots of water in and not as he would have done by “getting in there and putting it out”. I think that’s enough about the service but he would always tell people that I was a Fire Fighter, so deep down the pride and passion was still there.

In the 1990’s Mum, Dad and the two Aunties and Uncles used to get together and play cards and along with friends Ken and Jean go away on short holidays.  This is a short story from one particular holiday as remembered by Uncle Ron.    Dads cooking skills were put to the test one day when Mum was in hospital. On the menu was sausage, mash and beans. Three kids and one granddad sat down to probably the worst meal ever created. The lumpiest watery mash, the mushiest beans and the charcoal covered sausages were something else. It was the quietest meal time I can remember.

Soon after their 40th wedding anniversary Dad lost Mum on Christmas Eve 2001 and so his cooking, cleaning and general home keeping skills were put to the test and yes you are all right he failed miserably and Julie came to his rescue. They soon became good friends and eventually moved in together.

Dad’s knees were now starting to play him up and what with the large garden it was in 2007 that both he and Julie decided that a move to a smaller property would be sensible. They found the bungalow in Broad oak and moved in and remained there until his passing.

Dad and Julie enjoyed holidaying together travelling around the country, seeing shows in London and taking trips on Steam trains.

On one holiday in the Cotswold they met John and Valerie who ran a B & B. The four of them became good friends, – with Dad doing the painting and decorating in exchange for lodgings.Occasionally Dad and Julie even use to help run the business when John went away. Strangely Dad didn’t cook the breakfasts but entertained the guests whilst serving it.

One of the many trips down to the Cotswold involved some extra planning and on a lovely sunny day in Nov 2013 Dad and Julie got married. Sadly for us they wanted it to be a small affair so we missed out on a party.

Dad would often been found behind the counter of Tilling Green News Agents helping Julie man the fort whilst Roger & Lesley were away  – something he thoroughly enjoyed as he always loved a bit of banter with the customers.

Cheers Mick
Cheers Mick

Steam trains were a passion of Dads and the picture on the order of service is from the trip to York they both went on last year for his birthday.

Sharon and Lisa both adored Dad and spent many happy times together – although asking Dads advice on buying cars with his limited knowledge of mechanics did seem a strange choice!

Dad also went to many dance shows hosted by Rye Dance Centre where he watched his eldest granddaughter Ellie on the stage.

To complete the family picture Dad also had two other grandchildren Joshua and Emilia.

The last year of dads life seem to be spent more in hospital than at home with firstly a new knee then the dreaded cancer being found, closely followed by DVT in his leg. This stopped the chemo being given until after Christmas but once given, sadly, this didn’t help the situation. More infections and more time in hospital followed.

The plan was to get Dad to St Michael’s Hospice where a bed was found but then a case of the flu came along and 24 hours later he passed away at around 5 am on Saturday 19 March with Julie by his side.

You will all have your own memories and stories of Dad so please come and share them with us after this service at the Ship Inn Winchelsea Beach.

Finally I would like to read a letter I received from an old fire officer as it sums up the respect that Dad had…..


“Rye’s Own” Bulletin 22 April 2016