Read memories here and below…
from Commissioner Keith Banks
from Ron Thomlinson, family friend
from Alf Ward, family friend
from The Salvationist
from The Times
from Disability Rights UK
from Dennis Brock, Bell Captain at St Mary’s Church, Sunbury
from Phil Friend, Disability Rights UK
from John Hicks, family friend
from Fran Newman, family friend
From Jim Addie, family friend
from Handel Everett, family friend
from Gareth Neal, family friend
from Pete Bennet, family friend
from Darren Searls, family friend
from Chris Trembath, family friend
From Ann Marwood, family friend
from June Mathastein, Wycliffe’s P.A.
From Carol Chapman, Wycliffe’s P.A.
From Commissioner Keith Banks
I first met Wycliffe through the Joystrings of which my late wife Pauline was a member. His genial personality, clever humour and fine mind hugely impressed me as a young Salvation Army Officer.
Pauline knew him before their association through the Joystrings because her parents were the Salvation Army leaders at Kingston where Wycliffe was a member. This would have been in the early fifties and Pauline and her sister Margaret were very young at that time. But both always spoke with great pleasure about Wycliffe and the influence he had upon them. Pauline’s face would always light up with a smile when she spoke about those days and she always considered it such a pleasure that the Joystrings had brought them into contact with each other again.
Wycliffe’s flamboyant style as the drummer with the Joystrings was legendary. He used his drumming skills to communicate the message the Joystrings had to give – the ‘Open secret’ of God’s love for the world. And no one could have drummed the message home with more enthusiasm and vigour than Wycliffe.
I last saw Wycliffe on a visit I made to the Army’s Sunbury Court at Sunbury on Thames, close to where Wycliffe and Liz lived. Liz so thoughtfully brought Wycliffe in his wheelchair to see me and I recall very well the emotional impact our time together had on me.
I know beyond doubt that he has been promoted to Glory, to use that unique Salvation Army term. God has said his ‘well done’ to him and Wycliffe is at home in God’s presence.
It is very bad theology to think that heaven could ever be improved upon, but if it were possible, then heaven would certainly be enriched by the arrival of Wycliffe Noble. My guess is he may have started redesigning the place already! And I can just imagine Pauline aiding and abetting him with the project! What a man! What a life! What outstanding achievements! Wycliffe, I salute you.
Commissioner Keith Banks.
From Ron Thomlinson, family friend
During the great depression, Granny Begg lived in Hartley Street, a steep hill between Batley and Dewsbury. She was the Home League Secretary at the local Salvation Army corps. Wycliffe’s parents, Adjutant and Mrs Charlie Noble were in charge of The Salvation Army’s work at Batley. Unemployment and poverty are everywhere. A local council charity ‘Boots for bairns’ had run out of money and could no longer provide boots for poor children. Wycliffe told me that his dad took him on his home visits. Before going into a house his dad would explain to him the circumstances of the people living there. Wycliffe also told me that in the Batley Salvation Army hall his dad organized purposeful, practical day activities for the unemployed men.
A few days ago my brother spent two hours researching this project in the Batley News of 1930; however it received no newspaper coverage. My cousin Avril is, on her mother’s side, related to Granny Begg. Wycliffe did go visiting with his dad – including to Granny Begg’s. ‘Little Wycliffe’, as he was known, was very young and wore a ‘harding apron’. Harding is the West Yorkshire noun for ‘hessian’ from which sand bags are made. Complete with apron ‘Little Wycliffe’, arrived at Granny Begg’s and unable to say ‘shovel’, he would announce ‘I’ve come to shubble your coal’ and disappear down the rickety wooden steps into the cellar to play in the coal hole.
When his parents moved to Poplar in the East End of London, Wycliffe not only witnessed poverty around him but also experienced it in his own home. Again there were children he went to school with who had no shoes. His mother made toffee to sell in order to raise funds for the small living allowance they received from The Salvation Army as ‘salary’. Wycliffe kept her toffee-making dishes and cutters for a long time afterwards. When on 8 January 1966 the Joystrings visited Batley Wycliffe recalled those visit to Granny Begg’s after my Aunty Mary, who had been a teenager at the time, had made herself known to him.
Perhaps it was those childhood influences and experiences that created in Wycliffe that motivation to help the socially disadvantaged, both as a professional and as a follower of Jesus? Were these the seeds which made him the quintessential Salvationist, faith and works?
There is a story about the Apostle Paul being shipwrecked and was a total strangers when washed up on the Island of Malta. Paul writes:
The islanders showed us unusual kindness. They built a fire and welcomed us all because it was raining and cold.’ Acts 28:1, 2
This verse describes for me the way in which Wycliffe lived: Whenever Wycliffe saw someone shipwrecked, cold and in the rain, he showed ‘unusual kindnesses’ and lit a fire.
In the 1970s my life was caught up in a severe storm and I was shipwrecked. Wycliffe showed me many unusual kindnesses and lit a fire for me. That fire was being brought into the company of Liz, Jan and Kim all resident in their home. I call them ‘The Sunbury Samaritans’ because that is what they are. Wycliffe may have been its founder but they are all samaritans. Many of us have sat in the kitchen and poured our hearts out while Liz poured out an endless river of tea and coffee – and wisdom. Jan uses his gift as a poet to get alongside homeless people, many of whom have mental health issues. Kim runs art classes for homeless people who may also suffer mental illnesses and occasionally takes them to art exhibitions. Unusual kindnesses seem to be in their family DNA. In the 1980s some homeless people were allowed to sleep in the basement of The Salvation Army in Kingston. To ensure safety the local Salvation Army Captain would sleep there, too. Every now and again this very private man, Wycliffe Noble, would in order give the captain a night off, sleep there himself.
Who will ever know how many unusual kindnesses Wycliffe showed in his life or how many fires he lit for those shipwrecked or out in the rain and the cold. Because Wycliffe was a brilliant raconteur, I want to adapt an anonymous phrase:
Because of Wycliffe Noble…
I laughed a little louder
I cried a little less
And I smiled a lot more
From John Hicks, family friend
I was very sorry to hear that Wycliffe had passed away. He had such a very varied life and career and achieved so much compared to most of us mere mortals.
Quite a unique life in many ways – although we probably didn’t appreciate this fully when being told off for falling through his studio roof…
From Dennis Brock, Bell Captain at St Mary’s Church, Sunbury
When Wycliffe came around to seek knowledge our fine old tower at St Mary’s church I felt honoured and privileged to discuss the practical side of the bells installation and learn valuable details of the tower construction.
I then had the pleasure of introducing him to the art of handling a bell in full circle – my oldest people ever! Despite his age and the tricky spiral stairway with his good sense of rhythm he persevered – we loved having him with us.
From Handel Everett, family friend
My memories of Wycliffe go back to when he and I were boys and Wycliffe’s family came to my home in Southampton on holiday. I recall experimenting with water in bottles to try and makes the notes of a scale. Great fun!
Then Wycliffe and I were in the group called Salvation Swing, a precursor to the Joystrings. When the Joystrings were formed I told Joy Webb that we should recruit Wykkie, as he was affectionately known, to be the percussionist/drummer. What an important part he played in The Joystrings. Happy days!
From Gareth Neal, family friend
My thoughts are with the Nobles and my memories are mostly of a kind man who dared take young kids in a boat, let me into his lovey home, did a neat trick with a 50 pence… and had very hairy arms…
From June Mathastein, Wycliffe’s PA
It was my great pleasure, as his PA, to work closely with Wycliffe for 11 years. Needless to say Wycliffe was a stickler for perfection on everything he worked on and this impacted on us on many an occasion! Having said that we in turn were heavily influenced by his work ethic which led to many prestigious projects passing through the practice.
My time in Sunbury with Wycliffe has given me a real sense of success in life to have been a part of this great man’s work. His legacy will live on in the lives of those he improved thro his tireless work for people with disabilities.