Remembered by: Michael Rollitt
Date added: 16 May 2013
A few years ago, Dad wrote “Ron’s Story” to record his memories. I have used some of these to remind us of the man we knew, and perhaps tell a few things we didn’t!
Dad was born 90 years ago at his grand-parents house in Croxley Green. After the great event (Dad’s words, not mine) the family lived in Watford before moving to Apsley.
Reading his school reports, I can see why he was disappointed when he received mine! Regularly achieving a “Top 3” position in the Form, comments such as “He has made excellent progress” and “His work and conduct have been highly satisfactory” were the norm.
However, he wasn’t the perfect pupil. One day he was asked to roll the tennis court. Somehow, the roller went down a slope and through the woodwork room wall. We never found out what the headmaster had to say about that!
The school football team did fairly well in the League but success in the Davidson Cup competition eluded them. Every year they were drawn away to Bovingdon, the strongest team in the area, and every year they lost. However, in 1936 they were drawn at home. Wonder of wonders they won, going on to beat Two Waters in the final. Dad was pleased with his medal, which is still in the family today.
The time came when Dad’s future had to be considered. When asked what he would do when he left school, Dad replied “I’m going to be a professional footballer”. His grandfather replied “Over my dead body!” so Dad started as Office Boy at Myers Clarke and Co., a local Chartered Accountancy.
Dad spent the next five years learning the ropes, which included making the tea. He attended book-keeping classes and gained a certificate from the Royal Society of Arts and promotion to Audit Clerk.
With regards making tea, Dad took a less diligent approach. He recalled that on one occasion the manager complained that his tea was weak. Dad took the cup back, went out of the door, turned round and went back in with the same cup of tea. “That’s better”, the manager said!
Following the outbreak of WWII, Dad joined a “Firewatch Team” to help protect the office should incendiary bombs fall. Keen to do more, he also joined the local team, volunteered for the ARP service and joined the Home Guard.
He also volunteered for air crew, and early in 1942 he received instructions to report to Cardington. Disappointed at not being selected, Dad supposed that he had failed the final interview. The Group Captain had asked “I have a gun in my pocket and I am going to shoot you. What are you going to do?” Dad replied “Don’t be daft, it’s your pipe!”
In June 1942 Dad received his call-up papers. He wanted to be trained as an electrician, but those of us who experienced Dad’s attempts at DIY in later life are not surprised that he was placed in the RAF Regiment instead!
His first week in the RAF was notable only for having six haircuts. He had a day off on Sunday! After his induction, Dad was posted to Whitley Bay and completed training as an instructor. Promoted to Corporal, Dad’s role was to train air crew in self defence and field craft to give them a better chance of avoiding capture and making their way back to England.
Australians didn’t relish this type of training in the snow. One morning they failed to appear for parade and were found in bed. Ignoring their pleas of “Where we come from, even the sea is warm”, Dad helped whip them into shape running up and down the seafront.
During this time, Dad met Mum at a social evening at a Methodist Church hall. A few months later, in August 1943, Dad was posted to Heaton Park in Manchester. Whilst this put some distance between them, frequent letters and visits to Whitley Bay kept the romance alive. Meanwhile, Dad was able to put his football boots back on, playing for the camp team which included a few professionals.
Following the end of the war Dad received further postings to Bridgenorth and Stormy Down, gaining a further promotion to Sergeant.
Whilst at Bridgenorth, Dad was assigned to guard Italian POWs who were en-route to a holding camp prior to repatriation. Having marched the POWs to a lorry, the officer in charge shouted “jump in the back Sergeant, but that lot can walk”. Dad replied “If they are walking, I will walk with them”. And he did, about 5 miles!
Dad was then given the task of drilling the Flying Training Command detachment that was to take part in the Victory Parade in London, in June 1946. The night before the parade his CO told him he was to take part himself.
Dad was modest about his war service, but in his discharge papers the CO noted “A keen efficient NCO with 4.5 years’ service as an instructor. A definite loss to the service. Should do well in any position of trust. Noted particularly for his willingness to accept responsibility”.
Mum and Dad married soon after his discharge in September 1946. After a honeymoon in Newquay, Dad returned to Myers Clarke and Co., rising to Senior Audit Clerk.
Dad didn’t pursue a career as a footballer but he started as Secretary at Watford Football Club on April 1st 1955. After the final interview, one of the Directors on the panel said to him “I am sorry that you got the position because if you had been unsuccessful, I would have given you a job myself!”
Dad stayed at the club for 26 years and was promoted to General Manager in 1971. He saw some of the most exciting times in their history to that time, including four promotions and Cup Runs that included matches against Liverpool and Manchester United.
In 1969, following a draw at Manchester United there was the task of selling 35,000 tickets for the replay. Dad had requested police help in controlling the crowds queuing for tickets. After a long delay, during which he tried to control the crowds himself, two constables arrived to be met with Dad’s words of “Give me a uniform and I will do the job myself”.
A few days later, the Police Superintendent suggested that they went somewhere for a quiet chat about the events of the previous Monday. Dad suggested the tea room only to find it full of people – club staff and policemen. The Superintendent reminded everyone of Dad’s comments and presented him with a helmet, truncheon, Moriarty’s law and a legal document bringing into being the Ron Rollitt Private Police Force.
In 1980 Mum and Dad were involved in a serious road accident, which resulted in Dad’s left leg being broken. He was off work for a considerable time and it was with some reluctance he took early retirement.
Many years later, Dad confided that he was then approached by two other clubs. Mum and Dad were very settled in Oxhey, so a move south of the River Thames to Crystal Palace was not that appealing. And Luton ? Well, he just couldn’t, could he?
After leaving the club, Dad returned to his accountancy roots and joined the Watford Observer’s Accounting Office. Following his official retirement he continued in a part-time capacity until the age of 70.
Dad enjoyed many years of retirement, being able to devote more time to family, friends and good causes. For many years he helped care for his Uncle Les, who still lived in the house where Dad was born. Later he took on the role of “House Husband” looking after Mum at home.
He was always pleased to have the extended family around, and happily celebrated his 90th birthday last September with four generations present.
Until his health declined, Dad enjoyed his allotment and helped to run the Bushey and Oxhey CARE scheme. The family certainly missed the regular supply of vegetables when Dad gave up the allotment.
Dad’s serious commitment to the Methodist Church began in about 1939. The secretary of Two Waters Sunday School was expecting his call-up papers, so Dad became his assistant to take over if necessary. As it happened Dad was called up first. On his return from the RAF, Dad became leader of the Junior Department and eventually a Society Steward at the Church.
In 1953, Mum and Dad moved and joined the Bushey and Oxhey Methodist Church. Dad felt privileged to serve as Church Steward on several occasions; Chairman, Secretary and member of several committees and he also officiated at Circuit level. Dad also enjoyed spells in the Choir and singing groups.
Following the announcement of Dad’s passing, supporters posted their memories on the internet. One said what many thought: “He was a real Christian gentleman, ready to help others wherever he could. Like many others I will miss his smile.”