Actual coincidences I have experienced – by John Heys G3BDQ

Unaccountable and strange but true, by John Heys, G3BDQ,


In 1939 just after the start of the War I started my first job. I was a ‘junior’ in the Macclesfield Borough Education Office. The other ‘junior’ was Enid who was then 15 years old and was educated in the Girls’ half of my own Secondary (Central) School so I knew her vaguely. I left the Office when I was 18 in 1941 and joined the RAF as a Volunteer, not waiting for Call-up and a possible future in the Army or Navy. Enid joined the WRNS (Royal Naval Service) in 1943 working in Southampton as a Writer, the Navy word for an office worker. I married Betty in 1952 and she too had been a Wren and had also been based at Southampton being housed in the requisitioned Great South Western Hotel there. Many years into our marriage we came across an old group photograph. It showed all the Wrens at the Great Western and of course Betty and Enid were shown sitting quite close to one another. Betty just about remembered Enid but they were not well acquainted. The photo now hangs on the wall in the spare room upstairs.

My Doppelganger

The very first part of this saga of co-incidences mentions a chap having my name who in 1939 was listed as a successful School Certificate recipient from Wisbech Grammar School. Years later during the 1960s when teaching in Hastings I sometimes met in our Staffroom a Lecturer from Eastbourne Teacher training College when he visited to evaluate the skills of his students on ‘Teaching Practice’. One day this lecturer had pinned a note to his students on the notice board which he signed ‘Mr. Heys’. When I got the chance to speak with him I mentioned that the spelling of our names was not common and that my mother and I were the only representatives in the Tunbridge Wells Phone Book. This led to my mentioning the John D Heys of Wisbech Grammar School. “That’s my brother” said the lecturer. “He is an engineer working as a computer programmer in the Scunthorpe Steelworks”.

In 1970 Betty and I spent a couple of weeks touring Norfolk. We stayed for three nights at a Guest House on Kett’s Hill near H.M Prison. The only other guests were a family from Scunthorpe. The father revealed that he worked at the Steelworks there and knew Mr. Heys. He called him a ‘Boffin’. Incidentally a few days after this we embarked on a Broads boat trip at Oulton and found ourselves sitting next to ex-Police Inspector Shepherd from Hastings who then conducted all the cycle training and tests for our schoolchildren!
The other Mr. Heys from the Training College told me some time later that his brother had retired and had gone to live somewhere near Brighton. A few minutes with the Brighton Phone Book in the Library revealed that my namesake lived in Crawley. I wrote him a letter outlining the odd circumstances involving our names and received an interesting and detailed reply. Many years later during my retirement in the early 1990s I went to see Stan Simpson a Club Member holding the call G4ITM. I was taking him some magnetic switches for his home-brew wind indicator, and after a while he mentioned that when he was a lad his family lived in Wisbech. I then mentioned my namesake and to my surprise Stan told me that the other John Heys joined his Primary School Class and actually sat behind him for their final year before moving to Secondary Education. It seems the other John was brilliant and sailed through the exams for the Wisbech Grammar School. Stan said that he didn’t meet him again for he and his family moved to Hastings. All this prompted another letter to Crawley when I asked if there could be a family connection with mine somehow. Then back came the bombshell. The Wisbech family originally had the surname “Hayes” but for some unknown reason John’s father had some years earlier changed his name by Deed Poll to Heys. That was the last of the Crawley correspondence and it seems that the John there is no longer alive. Incidentally my middle name is Duncan but the other John’s middle name was Derek. No confusion at the Tax Office then! Just how many co-incidental factors go to make up this true story? My mind as they say ‘boggles’ when I think about it. That unusual change of surname spelling must remain a mystery. What was Mr. Hayes trying to escape from?


For more than ten years after retirement we always had a week in early June exploring London. Our base was with a friend in Bromley, a place having excellent connection to London from the Bromley South rail Station. One year we began the week with a Sunday afternoon boat trip on the Thames as far as the then new barrage. It was a warm day and our little vessel was filled with sightseers. Sitting by us was a rather tall lady aged between 35 and 40. She was British and we exchanged just the usual pleasantries regarding the weather and some of the interesting things on view. We shared no other information at all and certainly no clues as to our future programmes. Following our evening meal in Bromley we set about planning Monday’s itinerary. I eventually suggested somewhere that we had never visited, the RAF Museum in Hendon, agreement was reached! On Monday morning we took the usual red bus to the Station and were soon in London. The Underground Northern Line took us to Colindale, which is the nearest stop to the Museum. It was a short walk of about half a mile to the Museum and no one was coming or going along the road. It was deserted. Then we noticed a solitary figure in the distance coming towards us. It was the lady we met and chatted with on the boat trip the day before. She was dressed exactly as she had been the previous day and we naturally expressed surprise when we met. She told us that she was just returning from the Museum, it being her first visit and stated that we would find it very interesting. After a few words we continued on our respective ways.

What is the mathematical probability of this encounter? Think of the number of people in London at that time and of all the places they might visit and at just that time of day. Again I find it all very difficult to understand.

John Heys G3BDQ from Vital Spark published July 2008.

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