Pam’s tribute to family war hero

Looking forward to the concert – members at Lee Chapel North Community Centre

Looking forward to the concert – members at Lee Chapel North Community Centre

First published in News by

IT started off as “something small” to mark 100 years since the start of the First World War.

But thanks to the dedication, determination and passion of one woman, the centenary celebrations at Lee Chapel North Community Centre, in Ballards Walk, Laindon, look set to be among the biggest in the borough.

Pam McKay, who runs a club at the community centre, wanted to do something to help the over-50s in her weekly social group honour the landmark occasion.

She admits a major driving force behind the project was her beloved grandfather, Edward, who fought in the conflict.

Mrs McKay, 63, originally decided she wantedamemorial bench outside the community and was able to secure an Environmental Champions grant and funding from the Westerleigh Group, which runs Basildon crematorium and cemetery.

She said: “It wasn’t meant to be anything big, it was just going to be something small for the club, but it has just grown and grown.

“We got the go-ahead for the bench in just two days, so it all happened really quickly."

The Remembrance Day, which is taking place on Sunday, August 3, will include unique film footage and live performances from a specially- created choir, featuring members of the club and Mrs McKay’s daughter and granddaughter.

A rap version of iconic war song Pack up Your Troubles is set to be a big hit with the crowds.

Mrs McKay admits she shed tears as she watched rehearsals for the huge event, as it holds special significant for her.

“It’s going to be really emotional for everyone watching. I have always been interested in the First World War, but when I found out just how involved my grandad was it started to mean a lot more to me.

“He was lucky enough to survive, but he never really spoke about the war. I think that shows howmuch what he saw during that time affected him.”

As a member of the Royal Batallion, Edward James Porter was the lead horseman on the gun carriage during Queen Victoria’s funeral in 1901.

He also fought in one of the first battles of the First World War, at Ypres, France, on August 5, 1914.

Mrs McKay and husband John, who runs the food bank and job club at Lee Chapel North Community Centre, discovered his haul of war medals after he died, and went on to scour the internet and history books.

Mr McKay, who has helped organised the centenary event, said: “Speaking to people in the community you realise how many people lost grandparents or great-grandparents during the First World War.

“Edward was a cracking old boy, and I’m sure a lot of people in the area had someone in the family like him.”

Despite admitting they are not religious, the couple decided to include a religious service in the Remembrance Day as “there are some times in life where it is just right.”

The huge event will be attended by members of the Royal British Legion, Help for Heroes, and the Royal Navy.

The Big Lottery handed Mr and Mrs McKay £7,000, and Basildon Council gave a £1,000 grant.

Attention to detail is key for Mrs McKay, who will be serving cream tea out of metal ration tins and decking out the stage with sand bags.

All 200 guests will leave with a souvenir.

Mrs McKay added: “So many people come forward to help. It has taken a lot of work, but shows what can be done.”

For tickets, call 01268 419643.

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