“HEDDLE Malcolm Much loved Father, Husband, Grandpa and friend and mentor to many. Died peacefully on 3rd December Aged 94. Now with Christ. Thanksgiving service at Shoeburyness and Thorpe Bay Baptist Church on 14th January 2020 at 3pm. Donations in lieu of flowers to Gideon’s International c/o F P Guiver & Sons Ltd, 641 Southchurch Road, Southend on Sea.”
That was the announcement in the Southend Echo three days ago. I was aware Malcolm was frail and was living in a nursing home. His wife Bunty died earlier this year. They were a great couple whose lives impacted many. But let me go back fifty years to when I first met Malcolm. It was when I joined the Young People’s Bible Class at Coleman Street Chapel, which he faithfully and winsomely led for a number of years. He was a great encourager, widely embracing and ever the gentleman. He had a lovely helpmeet in his wife Bunty. One funny memory was the way he did notices – with great style and aplomb. He was also part of the eldership of the church as had been his father William before him. His grandfather, sometimes referred to as Bishop Heddle, was a leading light among the Peculiar People, that had been quite active in my part of the world, South East Essex in the later nineteenth century and early twentieth century. He started a family clothing business, which Malcolm later managed.
Malcolm and his father William were active members of Coleman Street Chapel, which I belonged to for many years, and our times there overlapped. When I wrote its history: Coleman Street’s Children, I included the following snippet: “Heddle’s High Street (opposite Cliff Town Road) Cash Clothing Stores received a direct hit on 13 October 1942; it had already been damaged as a result of a bomb falling on the London Hotel next door, in 1941. The manager, Mr Chandler, was killed; Malcolm Heddle (son of William) was seriously wounded and Norman Brunton was injured because of this later incident. It seemed at the time that the business was finished, but thanks to the kindness of others, notably the Raven family, who owned a rival business in the town, the business would later be rebuilt.” Malcolm made a full recovery but carried a small piece of shrapnel inside him, long afterwards.
I had less to do with Malcolm after leaving home for university and then leaving Southend. But after I returned to live in Southend in 1983 our paths crossed a number of times, especially for a few years at special events held at Coleman Street Chapel (which he had left to joined Shoebury Baptist). My wife recalls soon after coming to this country some 23 years ago that Malcolm and Bunty were among the first people she got to know and how they made her feel welcomed; she often bumped into them when shopping in Waitrose. We invariably found them to be warm, gracious, generous and kind, although it has been some years now since we have seen them.
Overall, I have good memories of this decent, god fearing man and his endearing unflappable style. No doubt Malcolm’s contribution to the Heddle legacy to Southend (and further afield – his father was my inspiration when later I took over his role as church missionary secretary) was profound. His children Jonathan and Sarah are in my thoughts and prayers. I have no doubt Malcolm with his deeply held Christian faith would say that to be with Christ is far better.
Update 14/10/20: Today my wife and I attended Malcolm’s memorial service. It was good for us to pay our respects, have gaps into Malcolm’s life filled in, like his love for giraffes and classic cars, and to meet and catch up with old friends – and when I say old we are talking of some folk I haven’t seen for many a year who have aged, reminding one of life’s transience. The service was as I understand it how Malcolm wanted and one that firstly honoured the Saviour he loved. It was good to hear tributes from family members, reminding me that here was a one off who really did practice what he preached, who was a unique character e.g. in the precise way he articulated words that mattered. It was an uplifting occasion and one that encouraged the good numbered crowd that had gathered. I was heartened hearing of one who followed the Lord to such an extent that much else was of secondary importance.