I COUNT myself very fortunate that, down the years, I have met some really special people.

As time moves on, sadly some of them are no longer with us, but the memories of these often larger than life characters certainly do not fade.

I still have warm recollections of one such friend, the late and much lamented Ron Fairman, of Althorne.

If you didn’t know Ron, it is difficult for me to know where to start in describing him to you.

Usually dressed in a tweed suit and tie, with neat manicured moustache and gold-rim glasses, he was reflective, quietly spoken and was a wise sage with a strong Christian faith, a thirst for knowledge and, pardon the pun, a really “devilish” sense of humour.

I got to call him friend through a mutual passion for local history.

He drew together many obscure snippets which he eventually had published in his eclectic and enduring little book The Crouch Valley Parishes (Orchard Print 1985).

Maldon and Burnham Standard: The cover of Ron’s 1985 book The Crouch Valley ParishesThe cover of Ron’s 1985 book The Crouch Valley Parishes

It was a real labour of love, compiled over many years and covering personal stories and chronicles of Althorne, Creeksea, Latchingdon, North Fambridge and “pulpits in the Dengie Hundred”.

It is a mine of information, reflecting the life of the people in our corner of the UK. I cherish my signed copy and often browse through it and think of Ron.

Inevitably, drifting back to those good times, I end up having a quiet chuckle to myself. In the foreword, the Bishop of Chelmsford described him as “a world authority on the social history of the Dengie Peninsula” and someone with “a keen sense of humour” – and so say I.

Ron and I would often meet up for a chinwag about matters past, usually made even more convivial with a dram or two of something special.

I recall one occasion when he took me to see a farmer friend of his at Southminster. It was a cold, snowy winter’s evening and we whiled away a couple memorable hours dissecting the events of Dengie in wartime, beside the fire and drinking House of Commons whisky – don’t even ask!

Always a consummate raconteur with a twinkle in his eye, my favourite of the many stories that he told was about the time he was called to “exorcise” a haunted house.

Ron, being a lay preacher licensed to the Dengie Deanery, was asked by the distraught owner to “please sort things out”.

He duly donned his cassock and arrived at the property in question (which shall remain anonymous for the purposes of this article).

The trouble was Ron didn’t have a clue what to do. With quick-fire imagination, as he walked up the path, he picked up four stones from the garden, went indoors, said the Lord’s Prayer a couple of times and on his way out (in his words) “scattered those stones to the four winds”.

The bemused resident was assured that there would be no further manifestations and, as far as I know, there weren’t.

Despite his passion for the Crouch Valley, Ron wasn’t originally from around these parts and actually hailed from Hackney.

Born there in 1919 to James and Edith Jessie (née Gibbons), Ron relocated to Dagenham and in 1941 married his beloved Ida (née Richards).

As well as Ida, his heart belonged to their adopted home – Althorne and the much loved family house on Summerhill.

He became a stalwart of the village and the wider district and during his time with the church he preached in 30 different parishes, covered during interregnums, acted as chaplain to five separate bishops, was the long-term chairman of governors at Maylandsea Primary School and somehow still had time to read, research and write about the area’s heritage.

In 1991 we both contributed to Maldon Golf Club’s centenary booklet – my chapter was on the formation of the club in 1891, whilst Ron’s was based on a suggestion that the Battle of Maldon (of 991) took place on the site of the course.

It was entitled Fragmentum capite at calce mutilum (taken from part of the title of Humfrey Wanley’s 1705 book on the battle poem) – typical Ron!

He also occasionally had features in the Maldon and Burnham Standard, including a very sensitively written piece about a personal marathon tour of Christmas church services at St Lawrence, Heybridge, Langford and Purleigh, during the festive season of 1984.

As he put it at the time, “we should never be strangers to one another in the country”. He certainly wasn’t and enjoyed speaking to people from all walks of life and of all ages.

He even dressed up as a Victorian schoolmaster and taught local primary classes in his distinctive fun style, about educational life in the 19th Century, arriving in his (not quite as old) trademark orange Austin Maxi.

It is difficult to believe that Ron left us a quarter of a century ago, but I am very pleased to be able to keep in touch with his daughter, Lynda.

We won’t see his sort again, but I will be eternally glad that I knew him.

Thanks for the memories Ron and, as he always signed off, “God bless you”.


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