The passing of East Ham’s Singing Docker Bernie
For years his was a familiar face and a much loved voice in Newham but Bernie Brown, aka the Singing Docker, has passed away.
Bernie Brown, 67, passed away on June 15 after losing his battle with pancreatic cancer. He leaves a widow, Jan and three children, Christine, Bernard and Danny, as well as grandchildren.
Bernie was one of six children raised by musical parents in East Ham. His mother was a concert pianist and his father, John, a comedian who performed regularly at the now defunct East Ham Palace in High Street North.
Bernie began performing with his slightly older sister Bunty but she now recalls: “He always outsung me. When he sang ‘Mother I Love You’ there was never a dry eye in the house and he would leave with two bobs and a shilling in his pockets.”
The pair rebelled against the family’s musical traditions and Bunty and her sisters went off on their own to form the Mission Belles who enjoyed some local fame. They also had a record with Decca and spread their wings to Germany.
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Bernie, after his spell of rebellion, returned to singing and was a regular at the Royal Oak pub in Canning Town where he quickly became known as the Singing Docker on account of his day job.
Bunty said: “I remember he sang The Green Green Grass of Home. He had a fabulous voice and he could have gone professional.”
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Bernie was married twice, had two children by his first wife and a son, Danny, with his second wife Jan.
The couple lived in Barking. He continued singing until he became ill several years ago.
Bunty said Bernie’s death has left a gaping hole in the family’s lives.