Gerald was one of the very earliest members of the Drama Club and, as many will also know, was one of the three Aylott brothers who made such a substantial contribution to its life, productions, fun and friendships over the years in which they were involved
Along with his twin brother Gordon, they must have been seen, in hindsight, by Mr Malyon as something of a ‘godsend’ from the moment they walked through the school gates in 1956 – having probably been identified as very likely candidates for all those forthcoming productions that would require, or benefit from, ‘lookalikes’ within a cast group – and, of course, if any ‘actual twins’ might be required!
Their parts of the ‘Lion’ & the ‘Unicorn’ in Alice comes easily and humorously to mind – which suited their great sense of fun. More poignantly, of their respective roles in ‘The Wall’ where their ‘similar appearance’ (save for different uniforms) added a really significant dimension to the impact of the play. This production saw them play two Berlin Wall Guards – one to the ‘East’ and one to the ‘West’ – tragically depicting fellow countrymen, perhaps even from the same family or village or school, being divided by the sheer circumstances of geography and two forms concrete – one form set in a physical barrier of the wall itself and the other by contrasting ideologies! The play, which was our entry in the Essex Drama Festival of 1964, was a timely piece of ‘theatre in education’ with all of the cast affected by its subject matter.
With the news of the loss of Gerald, this was one of the immediate memories that came to mind. This was not just of Gerald playing alongside his twin brother, but specifically because their younger brother Ray had suddenly found himself ‘promoted’ from understudy to play an actual part. This was of the ‘Boy’ in a family endeavouring to escape from East Berlin – and being dramatically passed over an ‘imaginary’ centre stage ‘Wall’ – with one brother aiding and abetting and the other hell bent on stopping his progress. It is a cherished memory of 3 brothers, and our great friends, performing and sharing their mutual ‘hobby’ together!
One of Gerald’s other interests in those earlier years, alongside his passion for the ‘Spurs’, playing football and love of his Vespa, was with the local Sea Cadet Unit. He shared this interest alongside Gordon and Ray, John Cade from the Drama Club and Gary Woods – who he had actually met on his first day at Primary School and with whom he maintained a close and ongoing relationship. Save for their first pre-school 5 years it was probably as near to an actual life-long friendship as anyone could get!
It was good to see Gerald at the Royal Forest Hotel Re-Union and to be reminded of all the similar interests that he shared with other members – which was very much characteristic of how the club ‘operated’ throughout its existence. The friendships, relationships and time together was not just limited to Monday & Friday evenings! It was also good to hear of how proud Gerald had become about his ‘little’ brother Ray – of his achievements and the person he was.
After retiring from BT Gerald and Carol moved ‘northwards’ – initially to the idyllic Suffolk village of Wilby, near Diss; where they began to enjoy a more ‘rural’ way of life – the nearby Suffolk beaches of Southwold and Aldeburgh with their dogs and the open countryside that surrounded them. They made many ‘new’ friendships through the community activities that they involved themselves in; also through their ‘veggie stall’ outside of their house where the neighbours plundered the surplus produce that Gerald amassed through his newly found hobby and ever increasing horticultural expertise!
More recently Gerald and Carol decided to move and found a house, this time with a more ‘manageable’ sized garden, in the nearby village of Stradbroke which enjoyed a few more local amenities – and was also just a bit nearer to their newly acquired caravan in Heacham and the equally idyllic beaches of Norfolk
Gerald died at their home in Stradbroke in February 2019 and his Funeral was held at St Mary’s Church, in Wilby – where they had first settled. The Service was attended by his family and many of his neighbours and friends; including several from his School and Drama Club days who were, as one of this number described, proud to be his ‘mates’ from those early years of our lives!
Gerald was a good, loyal and close friend to many. He will also be remembered for his quite subtle and cheeky sense of humour. In my last conversation with him, he said ‘it’s all been really hard Dave – but at least I’m still breathing’. I well understood to whom, and to what, he was referring in the first part of that comment – and I admired the strength he had shown towards this.
I also enjoyed being reminded of his enduring sense of humour – about ‘still breathing’! DM
Gerald Aylott 1944 – 2019