Obituaries

ALF PERRIN

Alf Perrin, who died on 8 December 2009 at the age of 87, was an outgoing and optimistic person with a wealth of experience and a life touched by tragedy.

He was born on 6 June 1922 in Southwark, close to the Blackfriars Road, and had a tough inner-London childhood.   Aged 17 at the start of World War Two, he joined the RAF and was posted to RAF Locking near Weston-super-Mare where he trained to work on air traffic control.  Later he served overseas, spending time in Cairo and Jerusalem.  He specialised in towing targets for gunnery practice and also had a spell guarding prisoners of war.  He was thus the last surviving member of the Croydon choir who had served in World War Two.

Alf (in his RAF uniform) and Kathleen on their wedding day in 1942

He married Kathleen Toon in 1942, after meeting her at a dance in Stamford, Lincolnshire.  They had two children: Michael, born in 1943, and David, born in 1954.  After the war the family moved to Orpington where Alf worked as a window-cleaner.  In the 1970s the family moved again, this time to Devon, where they bought and managed some holiday flats in Paignton.   Alf had a wide range of interests.  He was a keen photographer and shot a lot of cine footage in the 1960s and 1970s.  Later he became a video enthusiast.  He was fascinated by gadgets and new technology and was also a keen gardener.

Both Michael and David followed their father’s interest in aviation.  Michael, the older son, joined the RAF and worked in air traffic control.  On leaving the RAF he went into the wine trade.  He married in 1969 and he and his wife Susan had four children: Nigel, born 1970; Andrew (1975); Sarah and Alastair (twins, 1980).

Meanwhile their younger son David learned to fly at Biggin Hill. He joined a civilian air formation team sponsored by Rothmans which flew displays around the world.  He was reputed to have a prodigious talent as a flyer and when he started flying solo for Rothmans a short film was made about him.

Alf and Kathleen frequently went to watch him fly at displays in Britain, Alf filming David’s aerobatics with his movie camera.  Alf and Kathleen eventually sold up their business in Devon and bought a motor home so that they could follow David as he performed around the UK.

David also carried out stunt work for feature films and in 1982 he agreed to work on a movie called High Road to China which was to be filmed in Yugoslavia. David was being ferried to the airfield in a helicopter (he was not the pilot) when it hit power lines and crashed, killing all three on board.  David was 28 when he died.   It was a devastating loss for both Alf and Kathleen.

After staying for a while in the Kensington flat where David had intended to live, Alf and Kathleen moved to Biggin Hill , where Alf joined the Croydon Male Voice Choir as a top tenor.  Choir members found him friendly and sociable. When he met Kim Ormond (now the choir chair) and his wife Annie while shopping in Biggin Hill, Alf would always stop for a chat, often talking about David as well as his own interest in aviation.

Sadly, in the aftermath of David's death, Kathleen’s health deteriorated.  Alf became her main carer, and he withdrew from the choir in order to look after her.  His own health reflected the strain of doing so, particularly after he had a heart bypass operation.

Kathleen died in August 2008 and Alf returned to the Croydon choir later that year.  Although he did not take part in concerts, he clearly enjoyed both the singing and the choir’s convivial ambience.  At 87, Alf was the oldest member of the choir, and seemingly in good health and spirits. But on 8 December, just as he was due to attend Farnborough Hospital for a medical check, he died of a suspected heart attack.  His funeral was held at Beckenham Crematorium on 22 December and was attended by a choir contingent who sang “My Lord” in his memory.

Alf’s grandson Nigel, who provided much of the information for this obituary, says:  “I shall always think of him as an outgoing, optimistic character who enjoyed life, and was happiest in the company of others.  As a kid I always referred to him as ‘noisy Grandad’ – he would often be the most excited member of the family at Christmas.  Although he had a genuine love of singing, the choir offered him a respite when Kathleen began to suffer from health problems.   When he rejoined the choir, its social aspect was very important to him, and brought him great pleasure.”

Kim Ormond remembers Alf as a “good singer and a very reliable first tenor.  He also had a great sense of humour – well, he laughed at my jokes. He was always in good spirits, even in the period when he was caring for his wife.”   When Alf returned to the choir, it was “to see his old friends and to join in where he could.  It shows that we are a very friendly choir – and Alf was a memorable part of it.”

By Peter Giillman.  Photo of Alf at Sandilands by Phil Talmage

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