Who can say at what point a great man becomes great or a what point a small man becomes diminutive, or whether it is fighting or accepting that leads to greatness. The Stuffe family fled to these shores as a result of the Treaty of Battenburg at the end of the Nineteenth Century. Albert Stuffe was twelve when his family settled in Southeast London and in the following year Albert met Gwendeline Germaine Smith who he was destined to love until his tragic death in 1911.
On leaving school at the age of fourteen Albert went to work for Greenwich Corporation where he trained in sewerage and on Good Friday, 1910, he and his beloved Gwen were married. They moved into 21, Cold Harbour Lane, Greenwich, where they looked forward to many happy years together. But this was not to be, on April 1st, 1911, at 7.15 am Albert kissed Gwen good-bye at the door of number 21, mounted his bicycle and, whistling happily, set off as the sun rose over Cold Harbour Lane. Sadly, Albert never cycled back home to Gwen for he, like 25 of his comrades, lost his life in the Great Blackheath Sewer Collapse of that year.
After the funeral the grief stricken Gwen discovered that she was pregnant, and on November 11 th, 1911 she grave birth to three boys. These three boys were to grow up to be amongst that pantheon of people that inspire men and women from all walks of life and who become icons. verily candles in the dark, that personify the spirit of the age. Who can say what qualities a mother may have, what genes a person may inherit or what external influences or what proportion of these lead to genius - maybe it is just a case of "those whom the gods favour" - who can tell. There is no doubting the importance of Ernest being the first born - by five minutes - for from the beginning he was the path finder. He was christened Ernest Makepeace Albert Stuffe.
Ernest was followed by Sterne Stuffe who was to become one of the century's explorers and mountaineers before developing his unique "Big Man Strong Man" movement in order to deal with the absent father and the omnipresent maternal petticoat.
The last boy to born was Sirius Stuffe who was destined to be an influence in 20 th century astronomy before finding his true vocation as an astrologer and seer whose hold over the present generation of seekers, as the millennium approaches, is difficult to quantify. Who can say how much our destiny is shaped by our given names or how much our destiny determines the names we are given. What is it that leads some to seize the opportunity and others not see it.
Against all odds, Ernest Stuffe has always endeavoured to avoid becoming a cult figure which makes the job of the biographer a hard one, what little is known of Ernest's early years suggests a regime of poverty and striving. Times were often hard for Gwen with three young and demanding boys to bring up on her own, yet from what we do know she was indeed a remarkable woman. For many years she held down six jobs, gave her sons love and nourishment and some how managed to find time to make all the clothes her growing family needed. What is truly amazing is how she found the time to be a prime mover in the All London Sewerage Workers Enterprise (ALSWE) which in 1939 affiliated to the Peace Pledge Union and was subsumed by the GWTBU after the Beeching cuts in 1965.
In 1925 Earnest left Peckham Rye Secondary School and set about the serious business of making his mark upon the world and it is here that history (and, it has to be said, Ernest) plays a trick on us. Little is known about those seminal years from 1925 to Ernest's manifestation at Glastonbury Tor in that epoch making year of 1985.
It was in the summer of that year that Ernest was inspired to run his first Vagaries of Life seminar,it was clear from the reports of those that were present (and I am humbly proud to include myself in those lucky few) that an important force was abroad. The rest is history, few can doubt the significance of Ernest Stuffe's seminal work "The Importance of Being Vague" and the best selling"Vagueness or Something".
Ernest Stuffe is now 87 and his time with us is probably limited yet he continues to devote his energy and talent to propagating his unique view of life and continues to be an inspiration to all whose path he crosses.
Condensed from "Ernest Stuffe - A Life" by Winnifred Blackdore, published by the Ernest Stuffe Institute, Wymsey Manor Hall, Wymsey, SX73 9DX. Price £16.66. Also available by emailing your credit card to: firstname.lastname@example.org