Tributes to Ernie, Welwyn Garden City’s ‘old school gentleman’

PUBLISHED: 12:14 13 September 2018 | UPDATED: 12:24 13 September 2018

Ernie with longtime friend Romayne and Ralph the dog, around 2010. Picture: supplied

Ernie with longtime friend Romayne and Ralph the dog, around 2010. Picture: supplied

supplied

Friends and family have paid tribute to one of Welwyn Garden City’s most beloved “old school gentlemen” who passed away on Sunday (September 9).

Much-loved Ernie Biggs passed away at the age of 82 on Sunday, September 9. Picture: suppliedMuch-loved Ernie Biggs passed away at the age of 82 on Sunday, September 9. Picture: supplied

Ernest Biggs, known fondly to all as ‘Ernie’, died at the age of 82 due to age-related complications.

Born in Romford in 1936, his family moved with him and his sisters Vera and Joyce to Welwyn Garden City during the Second World War to escape the bombing, living first in Mill Green Lane and then Bushey Ley.

Growing up, Ernie went to Handside School and was a member of Peartree Boys’ Club, running around with lifelong friend Dave Williams.

Nephew David Jenkins remembers Ernie as a superb role model due to his kindness - and as the man who taught him to drink beer.

At his retirement, colleagues made a tribute board and read an 'Ode to Ernie'. Picture: suppliedAt his retirement, colleagues made a tribute board and read an 'Ode to Ernie'. Picture: supplied

“I’ve got really good and strong memories of him,” he said. “He was a fun uncle to be with and look up to. He was always generous with his time.”

While working part-time as a toolmaker, Ernie he found the job that he would hold for the rest of his working life: managing the bar at Gosling Sports Park, starting long before the new building was in place.

There, a 44-year friendship blossomed between him and his colleague Romayne Thomas, who found him such a true friend that she asked him to be the godfather of her son Bradley.

“The thing that has come up many, many times is that he was the best boss ever,” said Romayne.

Longtime friends from Ernie's childhood all came to celebrate his retirement. Picture: suppliedLongtime friends from Ernie's childhood all came to celebrate his retirement. Picture: supplied

“He was just a lovely man, and so easy to get on with.”

Though he had a real passion for people and loved a chat behind the bar, Romayne says he was actually quite shy. “He was really quite a private man,” she said. “He was just an old school gentleman.”

On his retirement, colleagues arranged a get-together to recognise his work over the years.

Some of his oldest childhood friends attended, and colleague David Goss even wrote an ‘Ode to Ernie’ that was read to him at the event:

Ernie on his 80th birthday with longtime friend Romayne and her husband Brian. Picture: suppliedErnie on his 80th birthday with longtime friend Romayne and her husband Brian. Picture: supplied

“Ernest Biggs is leaving us

After all these years

He’s sure not to want a fuss -

Ernie with his godson Bradley. Picture: suppliedErnie with his godson Bradley. Picture: supplied

Bet there’ll be some tears!

“He’s been a true friend to one and all

Both young and old, both drunk and sober!

He’s every right to ‘walk tall’

You can repeat that, over and over!

“The stadium without Ernie’s face

To greet us behind the bar

Will be a different place ...

Surely not the same, by far!

“Bless you Ernie for all you’ve done

To serve the stadium so true,

Many hearts you have won

May all happiness be your due!”

Ernie was a “confirmed bachelor” who didn’t marry, according to David, and enjoyed supporting West Ham and taking holidays to sunnier climes with groups of friends.

Having never driven, over many years Ernie has been a familiar face in Welwyn Garden City on his bike, which he could be seen out and about on just a month ago.

Ernie leaves behind his sister Vera, nephews David, Alan and Richard, and nieces Tricia and Lynn.

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