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Rest in peace Harry: Rainham's beloved town crier dies aged 90

PUBLISHED: 17:00 06 January 2020 | UPDATED: 10:39 07 January 2020

Town crier Harry Matthews at a Remembrance event in Havering-atte-Bower in 2018. Picture: Havering Council

Town crier Harry Matthews at a Remembrance event in Havering-atte-Bower in 2018. Picture: Havering Council

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Rainham's "friendly, reliable and funny" town crier Harry Matthews has died suddenly at the age of 90.

Town crier Harry Matthews in Collier Row. Picture: Steve PostonTown crier Harry Matthews in Collier Row. Picture: Steve Poston

Harry, who many Recorder readers will recognise from being featured in this newspaper, died on Sunday, December 1.

He had been raising money for the children's unit at Queen's Hospital with his record player in Tesco Roneo Corner when he suffered a heart attack.

The London Ambulance Service confirmed paramedics were called to the supermarket in Hornchurch Road at 2.54pm and took Harry to hospital, where he sadly died.

His family described him as "stubborn and determined - very independent minded," and "a great character, and with a lovely sense of humour".

Harry grew up in Dagenham and was called up to do National Service at the age of 18, which he completed in the army with the Catering Corps. Some of that time he was posted abroad to Egypt.

He was happily married to Lillian Amelia Anderson for 60 years until she died in 2011.

Harry enjoyed a long career with the Post Office and eventually became a postmaster before he retired.

In 1973 he started the Matthews Essex Dance Band Agency and according to his family he had an embarrassing habit of breaking into song in any shop without warning.

Harry's family - who called him Bert - said he was in his element as Rainham's town crier.

Harry Matthews was Rainham's town crier. Picture: Jemma Watts PhotographyHarry Matthews was Rainham's town crier. Picture: Jemma Watts Photography

"He was an absolute natural - his deep, loud and commanding voice ideally suited to the role, into which he really promoted himself," wrote family members in his eulogy.

"Bert could be extremely persuasive and cheeky in what he asked for. People found it hard to say no.

"He took an active role in the Remembrance Sunday commemorations in 2018, also marking the 100 year anniversary of the end of World War 1 - joining more than 100 fellow town criers across the world in reading out an International Cry for Peace Around the World."

Harry held the position of Romford toastmaster and served as president of the institute of toastmaster of Great Britain from 1987 to 1988.

Councillor Brian Eagling told the Recorder: "Harry will be missed by many residents in the borough.

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"Harry was a professional toastmaster for many years and he was a mentor for me when I decided to take the profession up.

"He also supported me when I became the mayor in the millennium."

Cllr Eagling added that Harry performed in a jazz band and was part of the Entertainers group.

In 2014 Cllr Jeffrey Tucker proposed that Harry be awarded the Honorary Freedom of the Borough for his charity work.

This was seconded by the current Mayor of Havering, Cllr Michael Deon Burton and it was unanimously agreed by councillors.

Cllr Tucker described Harry as a "good character" who was passionate about his charity work.

He said: "Harry was a credit to Rainham.

"He was very friendly, reliable and loyal to the community.

"If we needed a town crier or if somebody needed help, you could rely on Harry to be there.

"The world didn't bother him. He was very easy to speak to."

Harry raised money selling LP records for charity by setting up a stall in the Romford on a Saturday.

He had another stall at Tesco Roneo Corner selling stamps as he was passionate about collecting them along with coins.

"He used to go into Tesco (Roneo Corner) to collect and buy stamps from residents," said cllr Eagling.

"Harry was a founding member of the Hornchurch Torchlight Carnival Association and he did that for many years until it was eventually stopped due to health and safety reasons.

"Harry travelled around many places with his float and collected money which all went to charity."

A memorial will be held on Thursday, January 9 at St Edward's Church in Market Place, Romford.

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