Ernie Lane

Mr. E.H. ('Ernie') Lane

Ernie has attended Christ Church since the 1930's

It is with great pleasure that I contribute these memories of my experiences during my membership of our Church. As one of the more "mature" members, I will concentrate mainly on the pre-war years.
In the 1920s and 30s most of Rayleigh's children attended local Sunday Schools, and I attended the Wesleyan Chapel at the comer of Love Lane. My teacher was the renowned organist Donald Priestley, and when I became Scout Master of the 1st Rayleigh Scout Troop I was able to borrow a handcart in order to help him transport a piano to Eastwood Lodge, so that he could give a recital for the elderly-residents.
My switch to the Congregational Church came about through my friendship with the brothers Guy and Cliff Lomas, who were the sons of a local upholsterer. Before the war we attended the "Friendship", so wonderfully portrayed by that splendid gentleman A. G. Greenhalgh, one of the church's most eminent deacons.
His painting of the good ship "Friendship" can still be seen in our church.
I recall how one afternoon our invited guest speaker, Mr. Cullingford, spoke on "The Foolishness of the Drink Habit". After his talk, he singled me out and asked me to go up Crown Hill to speak to a man who was leaning on the wall opposite the hotel, and invite him to come and join us. Unfortunately the man declined my invitation, but he apparently did not return to the corner on subsequent occasions. Our speaker then invited us to write a short piece on the subject of his talk, and offered a book prize which I was proud to win.
One Sunday the "Friendship" decided to hold a midnight picnic at Hadleigh Castle. I accompanied a young lady by the name of Audrey, who was the sister of my two Lomas friends. Afterwards we returned to Rayleigh High Street at 2.00 a.m., by which time the buses had stopped running and there were no cars available, so I collected my bicycle so that I could escort her home. I don't know what her father said at 2.30 a.m., but mine reacted as if I had ravished the lass, which was very unfair as she wasn't even my guest!
A good friend throughout the years was Bart Tregenza, who taught me a great deal when he was my Scoutmaster. Ernie Hillier, who was a Cub and then a Scout under me, passed on this knowledge in his turn to the younger folk in our Church. As a young man Bart pumped the organ for services at the Wesleyan Church, charging sixpence a week. When he was approached by our own Church to do a similar job he accepted, and persuaded another boy to take on the Wesleyan's task for four pence and because he drew the money from the treasurer he pocketed the difference of two pence. In later years I kept in close touch with Bart, through weekly visits until he and his wife passed away. He bequeathed a splendid water colour of the Dutch Cottage to me in his will.
There were so many happy experiences at our Church in the old days, such as the short life of the Caley Male Voice Singers, which was brought to an end by the war. The leader, Ernest Buckland, recruited Norman Kingston, Clifford Hall, Roger Foley, Len Thomas, and me, and we met at his home in Hullbridge. Road. After our rehearsals we all piled into Norman Kingston's Austin 7, which would stop at the bottom of London Hill, rev up like a Lancaster bomber, and then charge up the hill with noisy accompaniment from the passengers. As we reached the top we had to "bump" to enable the car to make the final few yards. Norman was always renowned for his unusual driving!
The tennis meetings and tournaments, arranged by the parents of Margaret and Audrey Martin before the war, were always happy events. A young lady named Joy was "adopted" by the Church when she took a holiday with relatives in Benfleet. She and I became friends, and when war was declared I spent my 24 hours' leave flagging lifts to Norfolk to see her, only to arrive as she" went down a residents only shelter. A mighty air raid meant no sleep, and a very early breakfast before leaving to get home. We exchanged very few words. Joy then married someone living a lot closer - perhaps from the shelter?
As part of a talent scheme, a variety show was presented in Caley Hall in 1958, including musical items, monologues, a Will Hay classroom skit, a Barber's Shop quartet, and many other items, raising funds for the Church. The producers were Clifford and Elsie Hall, who gave us a great night.
One example of co-operative achievement was the laying of a footpath along the unmade Rayleigh Avenue to Eastwood Lodge Elderly People's Home. I think it was Peter Elliott who first drew attention to the need for this, and it fell to me, together with Peter and several other Church members, to organise the scheme, to which local businessmen kindly contributed.
Without doubt, the most satisfying and worthwhile achievement to Church life, in which both I and Bet were involved, was sparked off by Revd. Frank Miller, when he invited us to organise a fete to coincide with the Church's Golden Jubilee celebrations. This took place in 1960 at Great Wheatley Farm, when, by kind permission of Norman and Eve Kingston, we were able to welcome the newly inducted Revd. Hubert Smith and his wife Sheila. Bernard Braine, not yet a Knight, also attended, and I was able to use my position as Chairman of the Urban District Council to some advantage. Bet was persuaded to make the opening speech, which she did with great wit. Some will recall our dear friend Reg Fletcher being in charge of a fishing competition, announcing that a "captured" water otter would be on show. I wonder what became of that kettle?
Since those days there have been many changes. We have seen six ministers, all of them proving to be very popular, and now we are moving on with the assurance that, with God's help, the next 100 years will prove to be just as exciting and fruitful.