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Keeper of the town - Top citizen Mike is custodian of Rayleigh's heritage
SOMEONE must have something special about them to be picked from a town’s 30,000 residents to be the citizen of the year.
Mike Davies is just that someone.
The Rayleigh town historian and the brains behind Rayleigh Through The Looking Glass – a volunteer group curating historical slideshows and exhibitions – was named citizen of the year at Rayleigh’s town meeting.
Mike, 64, has dedicated the past 15 years of his life to being a custodian and accumulator of historical artefacts from the town he calls home.
His fascination with the town started a long time before 1999 though.
Having grown up in the East End of London, his familymoved to Rayleigh in the Sixties and Mike set about collecting postcards of the town.
Fast forward a few deacdes and when Mike’s predecessor as town historian, Ernie Lane, appealed for Rayleigh artefacts, a seed was sewn.
Mike said: “He wanted photos so I contacted him, he lapped them up and we became friends.
“In 2000, we started working together and he then decided, with his increasing years, to hand over his archive and collection to me.
“He started running the slideshows in 1999 and I used to think the collection would never get any bigger, but I’m constantly surprised by how much it grows each year.”
Mike now has more than 5,000 images of the town in his archive, dating back as far as 1860, and travels all around Essex presenting slideshows on the town’s rich and varied history, with the help of his wife Sharon, who provides the technical expertise.
Ernie, now 95, is still involved with the town’s history as a committee member, but has handed the reins to Mike.
Mike now has grand dreams of a Rayleigh town museum. He has applied for a £750,000 grant from the heritage lottery to buy the freehold on a building in the town’s High Street and convert it into a shrine to all things Rayleigh.
Mike added: “It’s a risky endeavour, but it would be great to have one place to display the collection.
“I’m just the custodian of these photos and artefacts and one day when I’m gone someone else will take on the job.
“My goal is to have a museum that would be open five days a week, all year round and could be used as a classroom for school visits and also recreate the town’s Regal Cinema to showhistory films.”
For more information, visit rayleighhistory.co.uk
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