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ERNIE HERBERT (HERBIE)
I have never told this story before mainly because Ernie may not have wanted me to. Sadly Ernie is no longer here to complain. But knowing him as I did I am sure he would be proud rather than ashamed of what he did. In a way it sums him up.
I was an enthusiastic bird watcher in the 60s/70s and I worked as a labourer in the G LC yard in Dewsbury Road, Harold Hill along with a fellow labourer Ernie Herbert. Ernie was a keen naturalist and only a budding historian in those days. Like me he was also infuriated by the six foot chain link fencing that the fishing club had erected around the priory pond. We both spent a lot of time over the manor and we occasionally moaned about the new fence to each other in the yard’s canteen.
Early one morning on my way to work in the spring/summer of 1970 as I walked along Gooshays Drive a police car pulled up and I was bundled into the back of the car and taken the few yards to Harold Hill police station. I was then closely questioned as to my whereabouts on the previous night. I was totally nonplussed as I was at home in North Hill Drive the whole night with my wife Gaynor. Anyhow I was eventually released and arrived in work an hour late.
Later in the day I was talking to Ernie and complaining about “the pigs”. It transpired, he, as was his way was carrying out a one man vigilante operation against the priory pond fence. Which he admitted he had cut down, on several occasions. But on the previous night the police were waiting for him. He had arrived in the total darkness and two coppers leapt on him. Ernie was no wimp and apparently the ensuing fight spread into the piles of nearby, newly dredged silt until all three of them were completely covered in mud. Ernie eventually slithered away and escaped.
Anyhow; it’s always been my view that my temporary arrest and Ernie's mud fight were linked. At the time Ernie was as always a clean cut, tidy, regular guy. I was a hippy scruff, mostly dressed in rags and sandals with long hair and beard, just about everything one would expect from the sixties. Ernie and I both spent a lot of time over the manor and we both worked in the same GLC yard. I have always thought that the local police who believed that "peace and love hippies" were a threat to the state hadn't quite grasped the reality. It was Ernie who owned the illegal guns and me who just did a bit of dope. The police mind-set was like that in the 60s. The inside info was that “it’s the bloke who works for the GLC” and they got the wrong bloke. Truth is I’ll never know, unless the pig is still grunting.
Postscript. Ernie is no longer grunting. He committed suicide in Harold Hill in 2014 with one of his illegal guns following a miserable slow deterioration of his health. Ernie was a one off and in his later years he researched and made freely available a mass of valuable local history. It is all available below. Ernie’s bombastic, eccentric and self-assured attitude was not always appreciated but his dedication to the cause of uncovering the history of the area that became Harold Hill cannot be denied.
Del Smith. (grunting on regardless)
These winzip files can be downloaded by clicking on the link below.
There are three files
The History of Harold Hill and Noak Hill. 150 pages of carefully researched detail not only updating but significantly adding to Lingham's original booklet of 40 pages. Fully referenced and including bibliography 535KB
The Origins of the Street Names of Harold Hill, Noak Hill and The Farms. 93 pages listing all of the names used in Harold Hill and Noak Hill. 316KB.
The Farms of Harold Hill. 117 pages of details of all the local farms. 399KB.
Herbie has also painstakingly transcribed the log books from the Noak Hill School. These books detail the everyday events at the school and are in fact a brief diary of events. There are three books. Number One, 1878-1905. Number Two, 1922-1951. Number Three, 1973-1977. They make fascinating reading 388 pages in total.