Albert Harris (Bert) became known as “Handy Harris” which then changed to Andy Harris. He earned the title “Handy Harris” because he was a Carpenter and Joiner by trade, trained in the Government Training Scheme after being demobbed from the armed forces.
Bert, as we knew him, lost a leg in the Second World War. He left his squad on the front battle line and walked over to join a friend to have a chat. His squad went over a hill and whilst trying to catch them up, was hit by a mortar. He said that if only he had not stopped for that chat he would still have had his leg. Instead, he was left with a metal replacement which never held him back from doing anything he wanted and did not stop him from doing more than his fair share of work in clubs, county and other organisations to which he belonged. He also had a very nice Baritone voice and belonged to a group who went around entertaining pensioners.
His first archery club was Regentone Archers whose venue was at the Armitage Centre which is no longer there but was near the Old house in Brentwood. The ground was just long enough to shoot 80 yards Bert and his wife, Belle, were the main social side of the club’s “tea and cakes”. That was 54 years ago!
Because Bert (Andy), some of the club wanted to be more competitive they joined The Pilgrim Archers at Little Dytchleys, near Pilgrim’s Hatch. This ground belonged to the London University and the County held their Championships there for a number of years.
Due to some problems with children, it was decided to start a new archery club near the Fortune of War on the A.127. This ground was owned by the mother of one of Bert work friends. The club was called “Fortune Archers”. With the help of the members of the club, hours were spent cleaning up an old chicken shed which was then lined with oak ply panelling. Once that work was finished the club bought an Allen grass cutter and Bert used to almost run behind it as he cut the whole field (around 2.5 acres).
After a while it became obvious that Bert could not get the competition he required at which time it was decided among the members of Fortune Archers to disband the club. Bert then joined Grays Archers and became one of their Albion League Teams. He also shot for the Essex County Archery Association and was involved in the Essex Guild of Archery Coaches where he held the position of Secretary. He was awarded the County’s prestigious “Red Tassel” for the continuous and varied duties he carried out.
The “Andy Harris” League was his idea because so many clubs could not find or even afford halls in which they could shoot Portsmouth rounds. Many clubs used either Church or Community halls because of the cost so, in the main, clubs were shooting a maximum distance of 15 yards. Bert was a firm believer that competition kept the club archers interested in archery and avoided losing many a member who might otherwise turn up, shoot with no outcome and become bored. Bert ran the “Andy Harris” League for many years from 1965 until his death in 1991.
One story that Bert (Andy) told was of the time when he was shooting at Harlow Bowmen’s ground. At mid-day, when the lunch break came, Andy walked to the car. Belle, his wife, was there with the sandwiches and tea. “That’s it” said Andy “We are going home after I have had lunch”. Belle looked at him and said, “Why? Aren’t they paying you enough?” Andy replied, “You know they don’t pay me”. Belle’s response was, “Well, why are you doing it?” From those few words of Belle’s he realised that he had been losing the real reason he started archery which was for a pastime which gave him pleasure. He did not go home but finished the round, enjoying the rest of the day. A wise wife was Belle!
Information received from Iris and Tom Major