Last Memory of Edward
Eddie was the quiet one, he was the middle sibling of us three and for the past half a century my younger brother and I have had to live without him, often wondering what he would be doing, where he would be living, would he be married and how many children would they have?
I was married with a new baby and a toddler when I heard the news. We had recently had to move flats because the mean landlord could get more rent as a summer holiday let. He said we could go back after the summer season, but you can imagine what we replied to that and drove away with our babies and our belongings on bad terms.
The next week I had to take the baby to the clinic to be weighed and checked again so while we were over that way, my husband left us in the car and went in to our old flats to see if there was any post. He was gone for quite a while but I wasn't worried, thinking he was just giving that mean landlord another piece of his mind.
I can see him now, fifty years later, walking down that drive towards us in the car parked over the other side of the road. I felt something, a premonition of doom, expecting to be told some bad news, but not the bombshell he dropped on me. My brother was dead. Killed in a motorbike accident. Last week. Two hundred and fifty miles away in Sussex.
We drove just along the road to the local shops where my husband went in and got £1 of silver as change for the telephone so I could 'phone my mum. Being a new mother myself I was wondering how she would be, what would she say, what could I say? She didn't make much sense on the 'phone (I learned later that she had been medicated by the family doctor), but I managed to find out a few facts. The heart wrenching one was that my parents had telephoned the flats last week to tell me but we had moved and not left a forwarding address or telephone number because we had rowed with the landlord. So they had no way of knowing where I was. I still hate private landlords to this day, money grabbing machines that they are!
All this time my father had not been very friendly towards me (my other hubs go into that), so I was glad that I had my husband for support and that at least my mother and younger brother had my father. They lived in Piddinghoe, next to the old churchyard at that time, in a new bungalow they had built after I left home, while we lived in Torquay. Dad said don't come to the funeral because you've just had a baby, wait and come to the memorial service later.
I could cope with that because just a few weeks before, at Easter time, my gran, Eddie and his bike had come to Devon by train to stay with us in a spare flat, while we were still at the flats we had to leave for the summer and before I had the baby, because they were missing me. We drove to Exeter to pick gran up and Eddie rode alongside on his bike to Torquay. We had a nice weekend together before he had to go back for work but gran stayed a week. Eddie wanted me to ride pillion to the shop and back, I said no, but wish I had said yes. When I stood in the road and waved him off the next day, that was the last time I ever saw him.
My mum's mother went to stay with her bereaved daughter and would you believe it, she fell and broke her leg while she was there, and she had to stay in my dead brother's bedroom, which upset my mother even more. It's a good job for medication. I cannot comprehend how a mother can cope after losing a child and I hope I never have to experience that.
As I mentioned, I wasn't living there at the time but this is what happened. I've still got the newspaper cuttings about the accident, the tributes and the enquiry, all faded and brown with age now, along with some things of Eddie's that my dad had kept and gave to me for safe-keeping when he knew he had terminal cancer. His school pens and his sheath knife in particular.
My mother had kept her sons pyjamas that I found in her drawer when I cleared out her house after she died. Just myself and my younger brother left now with no male heir to carry on our line. The Sussex Dedmans are all gone and the Sussex Hubbards will be one day too.
Eddie had the 1965 June Whitsun Monday off work because it was a Bank Holiday here in England. Dad was away working though, which left mum and my two brothers home alone. In the evening Eddie decided to go to the cinema in Seaford on his motorbike to watch The Magnificent Seven film on his own. He came out of the cinema and was riding along the main road (a new by-pass back then) from Seaford towards Newhaven.
A car driven by an elderly man accompanied by his wife, turned out of the side road coming from the Buckle direction and turned towards Newhaven. He later gave evidence that he did not see anything and thought the road was clear. How on earth can a driver not see a bike with lights on? It was about 10.30pm by then. He must have been blind and deaf as well as stupid and definitely too old to be driving around. (In his seventies actually, but you get my drift). It was recorded as an accident so no charges were ever brought against the driver of the Jaguar.
Apparently he drove right into my brothers passing bike, which was on a straight run on a straight dry road, knocking him off and into the roadside ditch, with his helmet still on. This was witnessed by passengers on the bus at the bus stop nearly opposite where it happened, at Bishopstone, and was reported in the local newspaper.
Somebody called an ambulance because Eddie was taken to the Royal Sussex County Hospital in Brighton but he died in the ambulance of internal injuries on his way there.
My mother was visited and told by the police, my little brother was in bed asleep and my father was away working so was called home immediately. My uncle had to go and identify the body. He said there was not a mark on him. My mother told me ;later that she was glad Eddie had not ended up a vegetable (her words) and was glad for his sake that he knew nothing about it, because he had been knocked unconscious.
Eddie on a school rock climbing trip
My mum could not even bring herself to go to the service at Brighton Crematorium and in due course a Memorial Service was arranged at Rodmell in Saint Peter's, our family church.
My dad arranged for us to stay in a caravan up on Newhaven Heights and we went by coach to Pool Valley, where he met us. While we were there, he lent us his blue Mini Traveller car, not knowing that my husband only had a provisional driving licence and we had decided it was better that he did not know either!
We arrived in convoy down The Street at Rodmell, parked up and walked up the lane into church where we saw it was full. Full of kind, caring people that had known us all. That was what Rodmell village was like in those days. They had left the front pews free for us family. We were sitting behind my parents and remaining brother. My husband held my hand while I held our toddler who was kept quiet by my great-aunt and uncle behind us. Their commemorative bench seat is in the churchyard on the left just inside the lych gate, alongside our row of ancestors' gravestones. We left our 3 month old baby at home in her carrycot beside my gran with the broken leg.
After the church service we all stood outside to the right of the church doorway where the cremated ashes plot is reserved. A small triangle of grass. Eddie's ashes were put in a little hole there by the Rector (underneath a rusty nail for our future reference) The following year my Rodmell grandmother's ashes were put there too. There is a stone commemorative plaque on the church wall above with the names of the ashes beneath. The place I always visit when I go to Sussex. I planted daffodil bulbs in the corner there last year.
My parents moved to the Scottish Highlands not long after that, leaving Sussex behind forever. That moment of carelessness by that old man driver deprived them of their eldest son, my brother and I of our middle brother and my children of their grandparents because they went to live too far away for regular visits any more.
Have you ever been to Scotland in the UK?
© 2015 Bren Hall