'He was one of life's gentlemen' - Tributes paid to Great Yarmouth's Ernie Childs who has died
PUBLISHED: 11:10 12 September 2019 | UPDATED: 11:10 12 September 2019
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Like the thousands of souvenirs, tankards, plates, and trinkets he fired and sent all over the world, much-loved potter and painter Ernie Childs was proud to say he was "made in Great Yarmouth."
And the many warm tributes that have poured in after his death this week reveal the town was just as delighted to have him as its champion, with people queuing up to remember a man who was "everyone's friend" and "one of life's gentlemen."
His son Marc confirmed his father had died peacefully in his sleep overnight on Monday, the suddenness of his death coming as a huge shock.
He was 71.
Aileen Mobbs of Great Yarmouth's Imperial Hotel, who worked closely with him on the Maritime Festival which he launched, said "Everyone loved Ernie and everyone aspired to be like him.
"He was a genuine gentleman.
"He would do anything for anyone.
"He was the sort of person that everyone wanted as a friend and he wanted to be everyone's friend.
"He represents the goodness of Yarmouth. He loved the town and he loved seagulls and anything to do with the sea."
She added the Maritime Festival, which has just staged its 20th event, was his idea and he remained a very involved member of the team.
Stonemason Colin Smith, who went to school, with Mr Childs told of his sadness.
Mr Smith said that as boys they shared an inkwell at Greenacre School.
He recalled how as lads they would clamber over barrels along the riverside, risking a clip round the ear if they were caught.
At school both boys were clever with their hands, Ernie always having the edge when it came to art.
"We were two lads that loved the town and what was in the town.
"We would still always give each other a hug. We were the best of buddies."
Paul Davies, chairman of the Great Yarmouth Minster Preservation Trust, hailed his work for the minster church.
"He was a great character, kind, always willing to help, and hard working - nothing was ever too much trouble.
"He will be sorely missed by the minster.
"He had a great following of people that adored him, a fan club really."
Lyndon Bevan, chairman of the Greater Yarmouth Business and Tourism Area, said: "Ernie was one of life's gentlemen and a very valued member of the Maritime Festival committee and worked hard to ensure its success for many years.
"We held some of our accommodation group meetings at Great Yarmouth Potteries where Ernie gave his knowledge and expertise freely to our members.
"He will be sorely missed and we would like to pass on our sincere condolences."
Mr Childs and his wife Karen were best known for running the Potteries in Blackfriars Road, a hub for all things quirky and maritime and a base for his art classes.
The couple took over the former herring curing works made from wrecks and ship's timbers in 1981 creating a unique attraction and working pottery with Ernie at its heart.
It closed in 2016, but Mr Childs still hosted his art classes there and had just finished writing a book about growing up in the town.
Over the years thousands of people have enjoyed his vivid canvases and his story-telling, witty and eerie yarns told to him by seadog uncles in The Rows.
In an interview he said: "It is about what you leave behind.
"We have made some brilliant things and it is nice for us to think our stuff is still on show."
His son Marc said he had been overwhelmed by the many comments describing his father in glowing terms.
"To me he was not the artist or the potter," he said. "He was the best dad ever. A bit crazy and just doing silly things all the time, and he was the sort of person you went to to confide in.
"I thought he would live forever."
He and his wife Karen had been together for 50 years. He also leaves three children Hailey, Marc and Lee and nine grandchildren.
A funeral service is being planned for October in Great Yarmouth Minster.