Eric Andrews - He was the Best of Us

I happened to think of Eric on 10th April this year; no significant reason, he simply came to mind, and in my iPhone’s ‘Notes’ App I wrote the words

“Eric Andrews - he is the best of us”

At that time I wrote “is” rather than “was”, but now with Eric’s sad passing those words have come back to me, although requiring the one, inevitable, yet wholly unwelcome minor change from ‘is’ to ‘was’.

I’ve known Eric all 69 years of my life, from when I was a boy who simply ‘knew’ him, to a man [or maybe older boy] who came to hold him in the highest esteem and with the greatest of respect.

As we say in the countryside, Eric never had a bad bone in his body. He was gentle, caring, extremely hard working when younger, and from youngster to elder he paid attention to the village with love and care.

The aforementioned ‘care’ included his well known and endless cycling around Pen giving [unpaid] physical attention to the verges and drains.

I know for a fact he loved his Pen ‘family’, and I am sure you know that his village related knowledge of all things and all people was just about second to none, maybe along with just a few other long time residents.

Sadly, Eric was rather reclusive in later years so the knowledge he held reached fewer people, but some of us have been privileged to ask seemingly unanswerable questions only to be utterly amazed at the near photographic memory of Eric’s tales of old.

I shall remember him regularly; I shall remember him with fondness; and I shall share the village’s loss of this mild, wonderful fellow.

Derrick Ings 

20th September 2023

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Comment by Alan Webber on September 30, 2023 at 17:34

Eric and his other facet: Audio.

In the first instance, his knowledge of Bands, particularly from the thirties to fifties was encyclopaedic. One standing joke we shared was that if I played him a piece of music, he would identify Band, Leader, year and, quite possibly, venue. Almost true.

His collection of discs can only be described as enormous. “Tower” cabinets full of CDs, overspilling into drawers and other spaces, to join the 12 inch vinyl albums.

He actually sourced some CDs from a specialist supplier in Australia, mail order, via adverts in his magazine “In Tune”, to which he had a subscription. Again, my line was that “Eric has more discs in stock than the average HMV store”. Very nearly right.

On to recordings and his cassette tapes, which, in number, approach his disc library in size. A mixture of purchased music, those recorded especially for him by BBC Radio Essex, and, above all, his own recordings of BBC Light Programme and Home Service shows. As to the latter, a mixture of music and spoken word; if I had any input to the disposal of the estate, I would image the titles and ping to an archivist.

Just in case any of these are “Lost Programmes” (which have previously been found in folks’ lofts and cleaned up, having been wiped from the BBC library).

It was these tapes that uncovered more incredible recollections from Eric of dates and cast lists, particularly of comedy offerings. I am old enough to recall some, but not to that level of granularity.

Why have I included this memory? Two reasons:

  1. Just in case people who have knowledge of “Outside Eric” performing his voluntary duties to enhance our village have no idea of this other side to him.
  2. I shall greatly miss discussing all forms of recorded media, and, through that, discovering more of his history. A delightful distraction from modern life.

Such a sad loss in so many ways of an all-round good egg.

Alan Webber

Comment by Elizabeth Carter on September 30, 2023 at 16:10

The testaments from Derek and Stella paint a lovely picture of Eric.

 Although I have lived in the village for 23 years and knew Eric to chat to in the street, I only really got to know him during the pandemic when his nephew moved away and there was no one to do his shopping or his sister’s. As I was organising volunteers to help people who couldn’t leave home, I arranged for several people to get their shopping and then did it myself. Eric was very frightened of Covid and found the range of different visitors coming at different times for his shopping list or with the shopping, very confusing, so I went on doing it myself. I gradually became aware of a host of other needs which were not being met. We became good friends. He was gentle and kind. Never wanted to upset anyone and was always grateful for everything that was done for him, but after his siter Jean died in April 2022, he was very lonely.

One of the big surprises to me was the extent of Eric’s musical knowledge. He had a huge collection of LPs, cds and tapes. Many of them of his favourite big band music of the 1950s, but encompassing classical, folk and other genres. His knowledge of his collection was encyclopaedic. He could tell me the year of Katheen Ferrier’s death, the names of all the big band leaders of that time and which record label they had a contract with.

I shall miss him.

Comment by Stella Parcell on September 30, 2023 at 12:30

Derrick 

That is such a lovely tribute to Eric!  Thank you for sharing your memories of this lovely gentleman - in all senses of the word.  

We had the pleasure of encountering him around the village from when we moved here in 2007.   He was regularly to be seen walking or cycling passed our house, often on his way to Moldram’s Ground which he cared for for many years.  He regularly topped up the bird feeders in front of the hide, often twice a week and took his lawn mower from home to keep the top footpaths and outdoor classroom seating area clear.  When it became too much to push the mower back up the hill to home, he invested in a smart new hand-pulled trailer to take the mower on - which I helped him with sometimes if I happened to be around so we could carry on chatting.  The Council rangers who have responsibility for the upkeep of Moldram’s owed a lot to him, and brought bulk supplies of bird feed to him to keep the feeders topped up.  If they were late, he bought his own supplies rather than let the birds down.  If there had been rain, Eric made a very distinctive sight going by in enormous wellies, gabardine mac and large brimmed hat with a shovel over his shoulder as he marched from one road-edge drain to the next, to clear the accumulated debris and prevented enormous puddles forming across our lanes - we certainly noticed what happens when he had to stop this service….

Eric was one of the gentlest persons I have ever met, with never a harsh or critical word about anyone.  Eric also used to be one of the strongest men in the village, who turned up without fail for the challenging task of placing the haphazard selection of boards across the church pews ready for the annual Village Show which is always held on Fete day.  Some were incredibly heavy and needed two other men to handle them, but he could manoeuvre them on his own.  

Eric enriched my life in so many ways with his knowledge of birds, history of the Pen Selwood  and it’s villagers. It was very sad witnessing his decline in recent months but a relief to know he is at peace.  Eric will be much missed.

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