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Izzard: A Bexhill Family Journey - book signing

OUR patron, comedian Eddie Izzard, was at his father’s side on Sunday, May 14th as John Izzard was kept busy at a book-signing at the museum.

John has penned Izzard: A Bexhill Family Journey, published by Bexhill Museum Ltd. and now available from the museum shop at £10.

John is so well known locally that in the first hour alone he signed 50 copies. At times the queue stretched the length of the museum’s Education Room and out to the Egerton Road doors.

To many people, the author is known by his first name, Harold; to others by his second, John. In consequence, he spent the afternoon asking purchasers which way they wanted their books signed…

John began working on the book way back in 1980. “Mind you, I wasn’t working at it full-time!” he chuckles.

Asked if he was pleased with the result, he says: “Relieved more like it!”

After 36 years of professional life with British Petroleum as an accountant he devoted another 30 to working locally in the voluntary sector.

“Did I enjoy writing it? No, I needed it. I have to keep working.”

John was born in 1928. In a long and eventful life, he has served as a Royal Naval volunteer, worked overseas (Eddie and his brother Mark were born in Aden) and made a major contribution to the community life of Bexhill through voluntary service, notably to the community centre at Sidley House

In his introduction, John explains: “During most of my time preparing my family history I was confident that I knew what had to be put into print.

“Then I received from Bexhill Museum a copy of the letter I wrote on our school holiday in Bexhill in August 1942 to Mr Hodges, the ‘father’ of the house in St Albans where I was a war-time evacuee from Bexhill County School for Boys.

“Bexhill Museum had received this letter from a much younger member of the St Albans family who now lives in Bexhill…

“The letter indicates to me the beginning of an influence on my life.”

After a frightening start to evacuation in 1940, once it was clear that invasion of the south coast was no longer imminent the evacuee boys were able to return home for the school holidays.

Even so, Harold writes to Mr Hodges about the bombs which narrowly missed Bexhill Hospital while he was at home (he scrounged some souvenir shrapnel) and adds details of an aerial dog-fight: ‘I am sending you a piece of a Jerry that a Beaufighter knocked out when he pressed the button…”

John’s researches take the family history back to Rotherfield in 1650. In the intervening period the name had a variety of spellings – beginning “Ics” and “Iz” before settling on the present double “z”.

The family moved to the Eastbourne area in the middle of the 19th Century. John was born in Hampden Park but moved aged seven to Sidley, where his mother’s family, the Adams, ran the brickyard.

At the conclusion of a hectic afternoon’s book-signing, museum chairman John Betts thanked father and son for their continuing support for the voluntarily-run independent museum.


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