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About Eric Wandless Renton – Background, Family, Friends, and His Murder
Why are you writing about Eric Wandless Renton?
Eric was my uncle, and he was my younger brother. He was brutally murdered 25 years ago, when I was 16 years old. I want to write something in his memory, to pay respect. Also, I would like to talk about the background situation in my family that led to him growing up in an orphanage – that is, his mother died a few days after his birth, and his father, who was a preacher at the time, because of the death his wife When he was murdered, newspapers didn’t have the time or inclination to give these matters the coverage they deserve, and recently this has been reported again in the local media. So it’s time to elaborate on the events, and the family background.
What do you remember about the events of 25 years ago?
My uncle, Frank Hughes found Eric’s body. Frank was Eric’s nephew, who had known Eric for decades. Frank got a call from Eric’s supermarket worker saying that Eric didn’t show up for work. This allowed Frank to move into a bungalow with his wife Hilda (my mother’s sister). Frank first looked through the window and told Hilda not to go in. Hilda called my mother and told her that Eric had passed away. A few days later, when my mother was told the ugly truth, she was met with disgust and disbelief. Obviously, it was a big shock to everyone. Eric was buried a month later. Crime Watch revealed some of the items the killer stole from Eric’s home, and a member of the public recognized one of the items, a lamp he had recently bought at a thrift store, which led police to arrest the killer.
How do you and the family consider the 25th anniversary of his murder?
I think it’s very important that people know that Eric’s death was nothing more than the act of an evil, evil man who had an evil plan in mind, to make an easy target.
The killer was not provoked. How strange that someone (someone) so “motivated” to commit murder, then proceeds to load their victims TV, microwave, lamps etc in the car as a post-traumatic afterthought. The killer had a knife and a knife in his bag. He stabbed Eric and stabbed him seven times. It is the act of a cold, calculated, ruthless killer: Malcolm Roberts. It took action – with the help and dedication of the police, Crime Watch, and the public.
What do you remember about the house in Charnock Richard?
It was a nice and tidy place, in a cul-de-sac. I remember his cabinet full of miniature cars, which were expensive collector’s items. I just remember that I was sitting at the dining table and after the meal, we played chess there too.
What kind of person was Mr. Wandless Renton?
He was a wise and intelligent man. My brother Michael said it was “funny” too. He wasn’t a threat to anyone, and he probably couldn’t hurt a fly if he tried. He was tall, thin and not at all athletic. His passion for chess inspired many others to play and compete. Like his father, and his sister Hilda, and her sons Martin and Graham, Eric was tall. Martin said Erik was a big spender. My sister thought he was a bit of a jerk, but she rarely met Eric. Also like his father, Erik suffered from chronic bronchitis.
I remember a saying that sometimes “only the good die young”. I think encouraging people to compete in any event is commendable, and many people have praised Eric for his participation and contribution to the world of chess.
The many friends that Eric has made are just to show what a loving person he is. It was just one more loss for our family; he will be remembered and missed by many.
Eric had many friends. My mother told me that Eric used to go to Holland to play chess, especially with his legendary friend Charles Aznavour, who sang the song “She”. I recently contacted Tom Rose, who was a very close friend of Eric. Tom Rose was the first person to win the Eric Wandless Renton Memorial Award. Here’s what Tom Rose said about Eric:
“That one [Eric] was one of my closest friends. I first met him when I was about 12 years old. After years, he often called me and his wife suddenly and shared food.
“Eric was a role model in his enthusiasm, and actually doing things, rather than just talking about them or planning them. He not only organized the Chorley tournament (and helped start the Blackpool tournament ) but also pestered people for sponsorship, and tirelessly solicited entries. He knew it wasn’t enough to just mail out entry forms – so he would approach players as he went and persuade them to log in. As a result the Chorley tournament had a very large entry and after his death it was considerably reduced.
Many people did not know the real Eric. They just saw his slightly eccentric and gay character (who was always smart of course – and never grew up in front of his heterosexual friends. Once you got to know him you’d find him to be one of the kindest and most generous souls .Could have hoped to meet.Not a day goes by that I don’t miss him and remember him with sadness.His close friends were Tony Hill (local businessman and owner of Hill’s Bakery and Stores. Roy Waterhouse, Jack Wolstenholme) died a few years ago .
Eric played many chess tournaments in Holland and had many friends among Dutch players. Some had invited him to play in Chorley and arranged for them to stay with their friends, so when we lived in Chorley we had Dutch visitors staying in our spare room during the August bank holiday.
He met the great concert pianist Sviatoslav Richter through mutual friend Roy Waterhouse (an amateur pianist) … when Richter played a concert in Manchester in the late 1960s or early 1970s.”
Why did Eric grow up in an orphanage? What do you remember about your uncle?
It is difficult to say the exact reason, but if one looks at the events, the reason is understandable in the circumstances. Doreen (my mother) was 15 months old and her sister Hilda was 7 years old when Eric was born. Their mother, Evelyn, died a few days after Eric’s birth, effectively leaving father James Luther Wandless, without his beloved wife, but with two young daughters and a newborn baby. James Luther Wandless was a Methodist Lay Evangelist, and the loss of his wife was too much for him to bear. Until then, they never allowed alcohol in their home. The loss of his wife was too much and he ended up drinking and soon joined the army, surviving WW2. After the war, James Wandless worked in the Ferrington store in Ferrington, Leyland. He died at the age of 60. We don’t know what was said about the children at that time. Evelyn had a sister named Lillian, who was married to Arthur Noblet. They had a daughter, Edna, who still lives in Chorley. Edna’s parents bravely took in two other teenage girls, Doreen and Hilda, at their home in Bootle, effectively raising three girls. A newborn baby (Eric) might have been too much to handle, as they would really have their hands full with three girls. Help from an orphanage should have been the logical approach, but they never lost touch with Eric. Eric was not abandoned. His father may have even met someone at the orphanage, which he thought was the best option at the time, other than trying to take care of himself when he was devastated by the loss of his wife. We have a picture of Eric and Doreen when she was only three and a half years old, and how interesting they are together. He looks healthy in all the pictures. Edna and Hilda were old enough to be evacuated from Southport when the war broke out. My mother stayed with Auntie Lil and Uncle Arthur, in the Bomb shelter in their backyard. There was even a bomb in my mother’s bedroom on Litherland Road in Bootle. When he was five, they moved to Chorley and initially lived in the basement of a dentist in Park Road (Teddy Tyrer).
After the war, my mother, Doreen, went everywhere with her brother Eric when they were teenagers. Although they argued a lot when they were young, they were also best friends. Doreen turned to Eric because he was not an aggressive person. Eric said that he, my mother, should have been a boy because it was so difficult. So when Eric was growing up, he also stayed at Auntie Lils, and Uncle Arthurs during the summer holidays. Doreen also once stayed with Eric for a week – albeit in the girl’s bedroom – at an orphanage in Frodsham. So we don’t know that Eric is complaining about his life in the orphanage. No doubt wartime was hard on everyone, but he turned out to be a well-educated, well-educated gentleman with many smart friends.
My brothers, Michael and James Fowler helped Eric from St Thomas Road to Richard’s bungalow in Charnock. I remember visiting Eric at his Bungalow once. He made me a microwave meal and we had a game of chess in his kitchen. I was about 13 years old and learned to play not long ago. Eric taught my brother Michael to play chess, and he and our cousin Martin Hughes used to run Eric’s company around the Bacup area.
Eric’s parents, Doreen and Hilda are buried together in Bootle Cemetery. Hilda Renton adopted Eric at the age of 16, and his adopted mother is buried with Eric in Chorley Cemetery.
Do you and the family know about the sexuality of your uncles?
Eric told his sisters shortly before the murder. My brothers and I were never thought of, brought up, discussed or suggested or told in any way – sexuality was not a topic of discussion. My mother, and my cousin Martin and his wife Sandra remember that Eric once had a girlfriend, his father owned several butcher shops near Frodsham, Cheshire. Coincidentally, Frodsham is where the orphanage was. Martin and Sandra remember visiting the girls’ father’s farm, so maybe his sexuality was something that changed later in life.
Maybe Eric wasn’t as successful as he wanted to be with women in the UK – not a unique issue that can influence and change people. I know from personal experience that the rates of single women and single men in the UK are heavily stacked against men, and I’ll be writing more about that soon. However, what goes on behind closed doors is nobody’s business, as long as it’s dating.
Will you and the family celebrate that anniversary?
We visited the cemetery and met our relatives. It is not a day of celebration. Somehow the family feels that they are suffering bad news. We all have fond memories of Eric, and we know Eric was thought highly of by many, which means a lot to us, and remembering those you have lost is the most important thing.
What happened after the murder?
His estate was cut soon after the murder. Eric was a businessman, and business requires investment, as far as we know there is very little left for anyone. Eric left some of his miniature cars to Tony Hill, of Hills Bakery. Hilda and her husband Frank died within the last two years.
We’re told Malcolm Roberts was sentenced to 15 years for murder, so he’s probably out – that might help a little.
11 Jan 09 It’s been 25 years since Eric Wandless Renton went missing. Obviously a great man, from Chorley.
I answered these questions in memory of my uncle: Eric Wandless Renton.
Doreen Bottomley (Former Fowler and Wandless) may be the last Wandless in blood. Doreens father, James Luther Wandless was born in Ireland. It is possible that James Luther Wandless had relatives in Cork, Ireland, who immigrated to America, but we have no record of this.
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