They came in their Hundreds
They came in their hundreds to St Mary’s Church on Thursday 21 April to say last goodbyes to one of Rye’s best known heroes, George Michael Albert Bourn M. B. E. The Church was packed, every pew was filled. Rye Firemen and Firefighters from other stations were there in force.
There was a hushed silence as Gary Bourn paid tribute to his father’s life and recalled many of the incidents in Michael’s very active and eventful time from his birth on 16 August 1938.
Sitting there in St. Mary’s among so many people that had shared his friendship and support over the years, my mind wandered back to 1944 when I met Michael for the first time at Rye Primary School in Ferry Road. The war was coming to a climax, the ‘Doodlebugs’ had been stopped as the Allied forces pushed on towards Germany. Mike was three months older than me. We were in Miss Baker’s class together, I remember playing in the sandpit in the classroom with Michael and Michael Tooth.
Later, must have been 1948, I went, with a large contingent from the school, to a Football Cup Final in Hastings and watched the School Team lift the Cup. Mike was in goal.
Just before Christmas 1960 I had a grandstand seat to see Mike and his dad in action when Central Garage caught fire. We had taken Frank Taylor’s Restaurant (now the Indian Restaurant) opposite the garage for the winter months to use as a display area for our Television Business which had the parent shop next door to the garage.
The fuel bowser had just finished pumping petrol into the tanks under the building, the tanks were full, and as the pipes were pulled back across the pavement to be would up on the back of the bowser when I saw sparks from someone’s shoe burst into flame and run across the pavement and up the fuel pumps which were fitted against the wall of the building.
As I phoned 999 I saw Basil Jones and Percy Shepherd empty two fire extinguishers on the blaze without making the slightest impression. The bowser still stood outside with pipes laying on the road. The driver seemed fixed to the spot. Clive Wall and I shouted at him to drive the lorry away, the message got through and he drove off with the pipes dragging behind.
The first Rye Appliance got to the scene within 3 minutes of my phone call. Rye Fire Chief Frank Bourn took immediate and decisive action in what was developing into a very dangerous situation. Alf Hancock, who worked at the garage had gone into the conflagration just before the firemen arrived and screwed the caps back on the fuel tanks, a very brave action. By the time he turned round to retrieve his jacket, which contained his weeks wages, paid in cash in those days, the fire had spread too much and he was unable to reach it and had to get out quick.
From my vantage point, across the road, I watched the desperate fight to get the fire under control. The ever present danger of an explosion was exacerbated by the blazing Tyre Store on the first floor above the fuel tanks. If this collapsed down on the tanks there would be a catastrophe.
My enduring memory of the fire is of Mick, up a ladder getting water under the roof and his dad up the ladder behind him with stick tapping the back of his legs encouraging him to get up higher. The fire was brought under control and a major disaster for the town averted.
Another memory for me is photographing the Rye Fire Team’s practice session for the Dunbrell Cup Competition. This was in the early days of “Rye’s Own” 1966
Frank’s amazing knowledge of every roof and wall space in the town was passed down to his son, and Michael’s long run as Rye’s Fire Chief kept the town safe in his time in charge as it had been on his father’s and his grandfather’s Watches,
I was shaken out of my reveries when the organ struck up for Jerusalem and had tears in my eyes, along with everyone else in the church, by the time we sang ‘Abide with Me’
The atmosphere was lightened as the congregation followed Michael’s casket out of the church to the sound of Benny Hill’s rendition of ‘Ernie – The fastest Milkman in the West’.
In life, Mick always left you with a smile. it was no different this time.
Everyone at “Rye’s Own” send their condolences to Julia and the Family
There will be a three page feature on Mick Bourn in the May Issue of “Rye’s Own”
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