Wednesday, 3 November 2010

J Arthur Rank

Have you ever wondered what to write in an autograph book? Well, this is what J Arthur Rank wrote on 4th February 1923, here in his home town for a neighbour's boy, Eric Hurst of Edes Fields, Park Lane. I had the great honour of showing it to the two audiences of my lecture, Churchill's Secret Reigate.

Pray about everything
Always expect something
Be thankful for anything
Grumble about nothing.

J. Arthur Rank

As well as all his other achievements in the milling business and the movies, he was the superintendent of the Sunday School at Reigate Methodist Church in the High Street, commemorated by the Rank Memorial Hall which is where I used to go for Girl Guides, the youth club, taking part in plays and concerts - and not forgetting those glorious Saturday night evenings, bopping round our handbags to the latest bands in the 60s!

J Arthur Rank was a great fan of Winston Churchill, even adopting some of his speech mannerisms apparently, and you can see from the blue plaque at Chartwell, he was one of the generous benefactors who eventually bought the place for the Churchills to continue living there, as a thank you gift after the war. During the war itself, J Arthur Rank housed his milling business temporarily in Reigate Priory for safety - just the other side of the wall behind his beloved Methodist Church. It was a wise decision because Hitler's lot had already earmarked the huge London flour mills as key targets.

On another page in Eric's tiny autograph book is a wonderful pen and ink drawing of their beloved Reigate Heath with the old windmill in the background - just as it looks today. The historic windmill is still in good condition and used as a church.

If you would like to see the autograph book, maybe I can take it along, with my WW2 memorabilia and my brand new patchwork commemorative quilt, to the Age Concern event on Saturday 20th November at Merstham Day Centre, 11am - 2pm.

The next day, Sunday 21st November, J Arthur Rank will be featured in BBC's Songs of Praise at Carshalton Methodist Church. Yet they wouldn't have known about those memories and souvenirs of J Arthur Rank that Eric's family have cherished all these years. Perhaps the Reigate Methodists would like to include that special autograph in their service sometime, now that the Rank Memorial Hall has been demolished.

My DVD and photobook are still available of course, by post via

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