We have seen in previous posts that our family has strong connections with Canvey Island in Essex. My grandmother Esther lived there with her second husband for several years, her son Bert (see the last post) and his wife Ada lived there as did their daughter Esther and her husband Peter. As far as I can calculate, at various times no less than eleven family members lived on the island. In addition many of the rest of the family were frequent visitors. As for myself, I have many memories of the island. My aunt Esther Slater (I know it gets confusing there being three Esthers in the family all of whom were called Esther Bayliss at some time) and her husband Joe lived in nearby Southend on Sea (where I live now) and were a frequent destination for holidays. If we were on holiday in Southend we visited Canvey Island and if we were on holiday on Canvey we visited Southend - the two went together.
|Leigh Beck Farm|
I do not intend to write here about the fascinating HISTORY OF THE ISLAND but recommend that you click of the link (that's the words in capitals) to read the Wikipedia page on Canvey. There are certain things that from my childhood I associate with Canvey, and particularly with Leigh Beck where Bert and Ada lived : the sound of crickets in the long grass around Bert's bungalow, the smell of the dykes which seemed to pervade everything - even the local meat from the butchers had an odd taste, pineapple jam which I first tasted there, and a starfish shaped ice lolly that was a particular favourite. The dirt roads, wooden shacks and covered sidewalks outside some of the shops if not quite giving the feeling of being in the Wild West certainly encouraged one to think of some hillbilly community in the Tennessee mountains.
|Postcard of Canvey in its heyday as a holiday resort for Londoners|
Probably the most dramatic thing to happen to the island was the great flood of 1953 when most of Canvey went underwater with the loss of 58 lives and, of course, there is always THE CANVEY ISLAND MONSTER who is actually commemorated in a spectacular piece of graffiti.
|Spectacular graffiti depicting the Canvey Island Monster|
|Two views of Canvey during the 1953 flood|
One of the island's more recent claims to fame is as the birthplace of the Rythm 'n' Blues/Rock band Dr. Feelgood. All the members of the band were born on the island except for lead singer Lee Brilleaux who grew up on the island but was born in South Africa. The band are still very much a part of the island mythology despite being disbanded years ago. Lee Brilleaux was a friend of cousin Ian who himself has long been involved with the local music scene. Every year there is a Lee Brilleaux memorial walk around the island (Lee died in 1994 ) The DVD Oil City Confidential tells the story of the band and contains much on the history of Canvey Island. Oil City was the name the band gave to Canvey because of the giant oil refinery Shell Haven that dominates much of the island.
|Dr, Feelgood (Lee Brilleaux with coloured tie)|
|Loft conversion Canvey Island style!!!|
I am indebted to Canvey Island. Org. for some information and the photo of Leigh Beck Farm.