It is with great sadness that we report the death of our friend and fellow digger, Eric Warrilow.
Eric was a member of a number of local history and archaeology groups, including our own (SOTMAS). We attended his funeral at Stafford Crematorium on 18th June 2014, where memories of Eric were movingly related by members of two of these groups. A leading member of our own society, Maureen Thomas, wrote the following tribute to Eric, which she felt summed up his involvement within the Society. She read this at his funeral on behalf of all our members. The photographs show Eric enjoying his archaeology.
have been asked to speak about Eric on behalf of the Stoke on Trent Museum
Archaeological Society. Also, Angela has asked me to say that Eric was an
invaluable member of the team at Cheddleton Flint Mill,and that he will be
sadly missed there.
First of all, I have to say how shocked and saddened we all were by the news of Eric's untimely death. However, every memory of him brings a smile, so I am going to talk of happy memories
Eric was a highly skilled craftsman who did so much work for the Society,and, I understand from Angela, that he made some superb steps at the Mill.
If a fence needing erecting, Eric was there; if a gate needed securing, Eric was on the job; if we needed wooden posts or pegs, Eric supplied them, all perfectly sharpened and ready for use. He made notice boards for the Society, and wooden boxes of different sizes, all beautifully lined with foam, for a variety of uses. He was a skilled craftsman who loved good tools.
|This year (2014) Eric refurbished the noticeboard which he made for our Burslem dig|
About two years ago David, my husband, bought himself a set of dental
tools for carrying out very delicate excavation. Soon afterwards, they
disappeared, and Eric in particular was very bothered about this. Last
week, they turned up in a corner at the bottom of our car boot. My first
thought when I saw them was, “ Eric will be so pleased”. Too late, of
Eric was a surprisingly clever man. I say surprisingly because he had this bluff, albeit always good- natured, manner. Although I know he came from Stone I always thought of him as a Potteries' man. His name, Warrilow, is a good Potteries name, and he really did speak Potteries! I always remember how he used to read out numbers when we were doing surveys: one, tow, threy, fower.....It always made me laugh.
I never realised how knowledgeable he was until we used to sit in the back of Winston's car together whenever we were making a Society visit. We talked about everything under the sun, serious and frivolous. He talked and he listened too. As well as history, he also knew about art, music, poetry and languages. He was learning Russian. I don't know how far he'd got with that,but he sounded good to me!
I know that Eric had had bad experiences at school, and had been derided and mocked, as children often were in the 1950s. Maybe this is why he was so modest and unassuming about his own wide knowledge?
Eric could be a frustrating man. He just didn't like 21st century technology. He didn't have a landline phone, his mobile was usually switched off and he had no access to emails. Consequently, he never received reminders about Society events. I used to jot dates down on a piece of paper for him, but he'd only lose them. I once badgered him into buying a calendar. When asked why he never read his calendar, he replied that that would be pointless as he had never written on it! Laughter. Then, up would go his usual lament,
“ Nobody ever tells me anything!” More laughter.
However he always appeared regularly and reliably at the dig. He was a real grafter. He would cut turfs and dig soil tirelessly, before using a trowel on the important layer which was reached. His only complaint was that he was too hot. He hated hot, sunny days and I love them. Again, we'd laugh.
|Eric (foreground) trowelling at our Burslem dig|
Although he was such a skilled craftsman, Eric could be clumsy. If there
was a tent rope or peg, or a spade, or a pile of buckets, Eric would fall
over them. We used to say that Eric was our “acid test”. If Eric didn't
fall over something, then nobody would! He was our sort- of Health and
Safety Policy, before such a thing had been invented. We've tightened up
I hope I haven't portrayed Eric as some sort of clown or buffoon. He was never that. He was just a very good friend who enjoyed a laugh.
My lasting memory of Eric is his emergence from the well. As most of you know, we ( i.e. the Society) were excavating a Roman well, to a depth of about 8 metres. It was shored up securely by the men from the Society. Anyway, Eric had been excavating down there in the wet, black, filthy muddy conditions. Eventually he appeared after climbing up the ladder, and he was completely, totally black. The only part of him which could be seen was his smile! He was filthy! We sat on the grass during lunch break, and when Eric stood up, he wondered why he'd been sitting in a muddy patch, not realising that he'd caused the grass to be so muddy. Later, he told us that when he'd arrived home that day, he was too dirty to go into the house, so, he'd taken his clothes off outside the back door, and slipped inside hoping that his neighbours didn't notice him! Happy memories.
|Eric coming up for air out of the Roman Well at Tollgate Farm, before he got even dirtier|
I really hope I've managed to capture the essence of Eric. I've tried to
say that he was a reliable, honest, dependable, helpful, intelligent,
skilled, clever and unusual man. He was a great friend and will be sorely
I realise that Eric, as well as being such a stalwart member of our society and an invaluable member of the team at Cheddleton Flint Mill, also belonged to other history groups in Staffordshire, and was a regular excavator at Gerard's Bromley and at the Roman site at Acton Trussel. He really did lead a full, busy and hopefully fulfilling life.
One final memory: the last time Eric came to the dig at Cox Bank Burnt Mound, it was obvious something was wrong. However, he still had the generosity to hand out Kit-Kats at break time!
Eric, we'll miss you for more than the Kit-Kats. I hope that, wherever you are, you are holding in your hand the right tool for the job.
Rest in peace, Eric"
Here are a few more pictures of Eric on site - click on any thumbnail for a bigger pic
This item was created on the 17th July 2014