Tribute to Brian Hellein

Brian Hellein

Brian was born in Bina, India on 22nd March 1944, the second child to Charlotte and Clarence Hellein. The family lived in the Railway community where life was idyllic, with lots of friends, socialising and of course sunny weather and servants galore.

However, after independence the family left India for England and arrived at Tilbury Docks in March 1950. Overnight snow had covered the ground and the contrast was somewhat startling.  Winter clothes had to be unpacked rather quickly. Brian celebrated his 6th birthday on the boat with family and friends. One great friend was Douglas White, later to become Father Bert White. Douglas was best man at our wedding in Ireland.

The family settled in Welling and Brian’s mother taught at St Peter’s School in Woolwich for many years. Clarence joined the civil service.

Brian attended St Stephen’s School and made his First Communion and Confirmation there before going on to college to study Engineering. After he qualified he became a chartered structural / civil engineer. Brian worked on many engineering projects in this country and abroad. His first job was working for the Ministry of Defence and later the GLC in London. As a young engineer, one project not far from here was the design for the Thames Barrier, still operating to this day and stopping London from flooding.

Brian loved music and singing and was blessed with a wonderful baritone voice. He started his first group when he was still studying. The group consisted of four boys: Brian, Mike, Louis and Roger. Brian was the vocalist and played guitar. This was the time of The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and of course The Shadows. The group wanted to go professional, however Brian’s dad put a stop to that.  A compromise was reached by agreeing to study for his qualifications and music and singing could come later.

I first met Brian in 1968 when we were members of the Young Christian Workers. We met again at my sister Bernadette’s wedding in 1970 and were engaged that Christmas. We were married in Ireland at the Galway Cathedral on 7th August 1971 and our daughter Tanya was born in May 1974. We set up home in Welling with frequent visits back to Ireland. Brian also visited New Zealand where his parents and sister lived by that time.

Brian was a kind and gentle soul, always calm and endearing.  Work took him all over the world but family always came first. He loved the countryside and would sketch and paint when time allowed. When he retired he once again took up singing and song writing. He also did jewellery making, stained glass and military modelling and he received many awards from different bodies.

When I retired we spent many hours visiting galleries and museums in London and abroad. Shortly after retiring Brian was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. This was quite a shock as he was always strong and healthy. When young he would play a tennis match from three to five hours.  Swimming in the sea was also a passion.

Brian spent many hours organising and running concerts to raise funds for vital research and better treatments for Parkinson’s so that one day a cure may be found. He also contributed to other fundraising events at St Stephen’s.

Brian loved the sunshine and warm weather. In the summer he would sit in the garden reading and song writing. Later as the Parkinson’s progressed he was unable to write.

Walking was another great pastime and we both walked every park in London and beyond. On holidays to Ireland, one favourite place was Connemara and climbing the reek (Croagh Patrick) looking down over Clew Bay, and of course paying a visit to Knock Shrine.

Brian’s death was unexpected and utterly devastating for me and my daughter. There are some that bring a light so bright to the world that even after they are gone the light remains forever.

Rest in Peace, dear Brian.

Mary hELLEIN, loving wife