My old choirmaster Victor, resplendent in his top hat

THE last thing I expected when picking up the Observer (June 22), was to be greeted by a ghost from the past, but that is exactly what happened when I read Hannah Collisson’s article, ‘Old funeral records breathe life into the town’s past’.

The article chronicling the discovery of old documents relating to funeral directors D C Mercer and Sons, hoped to promote the chance to look back into the towns history through old records.

A photograph was published with the article, showing Douglas Mercer with three employees, one of the three was a face I had not seen for nearly 40 years.

Third from the left stood Victor Padgham, resplendent in his finery, and a top hat mounted proudly on his head.

There in itself, unbeknown to the town now, and maybe to D C Mercers now, stood a little bit of history. Victor Padgham was an elderly man when I knew him in the 1970s, but did not look so very different from the young man in the picture.

At the time he was more or less a minor celebrity, and was much-loved and respected by all.

Though retired from the funeral directors, he had carried on working as choirmaster at Christ Church St Leonards, and boasted the fact that he was the choir master of the last remaining male voice church choir in the south east.

I had the good fortune to be trained for the choir by him, selected at 10 years old from the pupils of Christ Church School whom he gave music lessons to every Wednesday. As the organist for the church there was none to touch his amazing ability.

He never owned a TV, neither did he want to. Instead being content with an old transistor radio. I remember how amazed he was when I introduced him to a tiny cassette recorder which we used to record the choir.

Always well dressed in suit and tie he worked tirelessly for the community, efforts all forgotten but for a distant reminder from the chance discovery of a photograph.

He lived in Sedlescombe Road North right up until his death.

The importance of such discoveries in jogging the memories of people like myself, are invaluable, and for a moment can bring people like Victor briefly back to life.


Bexhill Road

St Leonards