Tributes to museum and church organist Vernon Hendy

July 28 2022
Tributes to museum and church organist Vernon Hendy

TRIBUTES have been paid to the organist whose "sensitive and lovely" playing entertained visitors to Fishponds' Glenside Hospital Museum.

Vernon Hendy died on July 15, shortly after suffering a stroke. He was 82.

Born at his aunt’s house in Downend Road, Fishponds on November 20, 1939, Vernon spent his childhood in nearby Forest Road.

His father taught him to play the piano and he later took up the organ, taking lessons from Garth Benson, the celebrated organist, at St Mary Redcliffe.

The family attended the Salvation Army in Channons Hill, then Morley Congregational Chapel in Lodge Causeway.

When he married Vera (nee Evans, also of Fishponds) in 1963, they first lived in Lincombe Road, Downend until 1988, then Manor Place, off Malmains Drive in Frenchay.

When he left school, Vernon spent five years in an apprenticeship with Old Market building firm William Cowling, but when his father heard of a vacancy for a fitter at Glenside Hospital in 1959, Vernon began a 34-year association with the hospital on the engineering staff. 

In 1967 he discovered the hospital chapel had an organ and started playing it in his lunch breaks. 

After the hospital closed in 1994, he played the organ each week while visitors looked around Glenside Hospital Museum, continuing until three days before his stroke last month.

Museum chair of trustees Anwyl Cooper-Willis said: "His playing was sensitive and lovely. So many visitors commented on the enjoyment they received from the lovely organ music.

"He was always a quiet but happy presence to the rest of us volunteers. His absence and the silence of the organ is such a gap in our museum."

Vernon's organ-playing was held in high regard at many local churches throughout his life. After Morley closed in 1980, he was organist at Christ Church Downend for 16 years, before moving to Nailsea in 2002 and helping out in many churches, including Shirehampton Methodist and churches in Yatton, Tickenham, Backwell and Nailsea.

President of the Bristol and District Organists Association in 2009/10 – a rare honour for an amateur organist – he played many organs around the country, including the one at St Paul’s Cathedral, for a birthday present.

Vernon will be sadly missed by daughters Kathryn and Gill, sons-in-law Ian and Rob and grandchildren Dom, Miranda, Ben and Dan, as well as his sister Christine and her family.

Vernon’s funeral will take place at Christ Church Nailsea on Wednesday August 3 at noon.

All are welcome. Donations in lieu of flowers to Glenside Hospital Museum or the Stroke Association.

Kathryn King