Tributes to Ernie, Welwyn Garden City’s ‘old school gentleman’
PUBLISHED: 12:14 13 September 2018 | UPDATED: 12:24 13 September 2018
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).
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.
“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.
“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:
“Ernest Biggs is leaving us
After all these years
He’s sure not to want a fuss -
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.