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News > Fondly Remembered > Eric Goldrein, OH 1930-39

Eric Goldrein, OH 1930-39

We were recently been informed of the passing of Eric Goldrein by his family. Eric lived a remarkable life and he was always grateful for the encouragement Hymers College gave him in his early years.  While at school, he excelled in his academic subjects and had many sporting achievements, as well as being Head of Brandesburton House.  He often participated in the Debating Society; a skill that served him well during World War II and in his future career in law.

His children, Tim and Anna told us more about his life:

Eric Geoffrey Goldrein (EGG) was born in London on 29 May 1921 and grew up in Hull where the family egg business was based. Eric studied at Hymers College from 1930 until the summer of 1939. We were saddened to hear of his passing at the remarkable age of 101 years on 5 December 2022, at home after a short illness. He packed many adventures into his long life, recording highlights in his beautifully illustrated scrapbooks.

From Hymers, it included his exam certificates, a few photos, speech-day programmes, and excerpts from “The Hymerian”, mostly with news of the Officer Training Corps (OTC) and the debating society.

It seems that Samuel Pepys (diarist of the 17th century) himself was a Lance Corporal, and a regular at Hymers Officers Training Corps (OTC) camp. Even 85 years later, it’s clear that this was a very smart group of sixth formers indeed.

As a 16 or 17 year old, Eric was clearly well on his way to developing his skills as an artist, designing scenery in school productions, such as "Androcles and the Lion" along with programme covers.

Eric was the first of his family to attend university after the school suggested that he apply for a scholarship to Cambridge, which he won, to read English.

The scrapbook records the essentials – nothing at all regarding work, College, or anything much other than the University OTC and the “Union Society”, Cambridge’s debating society.

“Cambridge Letters” to the Hymerian seem to have been regular, with Hymers alumni keeping the school up to date with their new lives at university.

Eric’s schooling stood him in excellent stead, and his ability as a persuasive speaker in the Debating Society seems to have shaped his future – perhaps even saving his life in the army – and informed his career choice in the law.

When war broke out, Eric volunteered and joined the Royal Artillery after two idyllic years in Cambridge. He landed on Gold Beach on D-Day plus 4 and took part in the Normandy campaign. While scouting a rural area with his batman, covered in swastikas on his map, not everything went as planned. He was shot in the arm. He was captured. In his words, “he thought he was a gonner”. But those powers of persuasion came to the fore. Listening to his captors’ German (which he pretended not to understand), he communicated to them in French (which he spoke fluently). Sensing an opportunity that his captors were feeling the war was turning against them, Eric persuaded the German colonel to surrender himself and his 60-men strong Battalion into his hands then marched them back to British lines, his injured arm supported by a tie. Don’t believe this tall tale? Search “Eric Goldrein, 100” to find Eric on the front cover of The Gunner’s 1944 September edition, “The Tables Turned”.

After recovering from his battle wounds, Eric was offered a desk job but refused in his determination to get back to the lads and to avoid anyone thinking that Jews were cowards. Back on the front line, this time he served in Italy. After battling the length of Italy and treating troops to opera in Milan, Eric ended up in Austria, in charge of an area he described as the size of Yorkshire. When the war finally ended, he couldn’t believe his great luck to be alive after his experiences and looking back to the long list of the fallen on Hymers’ First World War memorial. But he had no idea what to do. ‘Come back here, of course!’ said his Cambridge tutor. This he did, changing to law as he didn’t see his future as an English teacher.

In October 1949, he became a solicitor and later a partner in the Liverpool firm of Silverman & Livermore, headed by Sir Sydney Silverman who, as an MP, was the driving force behind the abolition of the death penalty and Sir Harry Livermore, later Lord Mayor of Liverpool. One of the mundane tasks that seemed to pass unremarked from his time at Silverman & Livermore was his apparent preparation of the contract between Brian Epstein and the Beatles. Even decades later, it never occurred to him that this was in any way noteworthy.

Over the years, Eric found that he increasingly enjoyed the cut and thrust of advocacy although, at that time, his rights of audience were restricted to the Magistrates Courts, the County Courts and the District Registry. He decided to move to the Bar and in November 1960 was called to the Bar by the Middle Temple. In his new chambers was Inge Bernstein with whom he had been stepping out for some six years. In 1967, they were married and for over 50 years were a truly devoted couple. In 1970 he started training his only pupil, Brian Leveson (now Sir Brian Leveson), whose 2012 inquiry into the British press made him a household name. Eric dealt with every type of legal work – crime, personal injury, contract and family law: he was a true polymath. 

Eric had a marvellous way with words. For example, after being pressed by Lord Denning, then Master of the Rolls to accept that a well-established principle of law was no longer fit for purpose, Eric said with great aplomb: “My Lord, I can only address your Lordship upon what the law was this morning. What your Lordship chooses to make the law this afternoon is a matter for your Lordship”. Lord Denning could only respond: “We will have to see about that” – but didn’t reject the principle. 

Eric’s sense of fun, exemplified early on in his writing about Samuel Pepys (L/Cpl), stayed with him. He loved to buy gadgets, often coming home to his family of two children, Timothy and Anna, with a new necessity, such as a strawberry huller or a device to produce cubic boiled eggs. He could turn out humour at all times. He was very friendly with Monty Dovenor QC. When Monty invited him to his fourth wedding, Eric asked casually: ‘Tell me Monty, what do I usually give you as a wedding present?’ He could tease, as he did with the family housekeeper who heard the cheery cry to Inge as he left for court in the morning: “I will see you in the divorce court”. Eric lived life to the full: rushing to the Racquets Club to play squash, drinking only the finest wines and smoking only the finest cigars in his home study, with the bullet that had lodged in his arm, now framed on his desk. 

In 1976, the family moved to Hale Village where Eric became Lord Mayor of Hale, the President of its British Legion and a Freeman of Hale and England. On his 97th birthday, he was awarded the Légion d’Honneur by the French Honorary Consul for his participation in the D-Day landings with speeches of congratulation from the High Sheriff and Lord Lieutenant along with personal letters from The Queen and the Prime Minister. On his 100th birthday, the village closed its main road for a military parade to pass the house, with Eric taking the salute. He would then comment with wry humour, “You want to try getting old. The first 100 years are the hardest”. 

Eric was born into an era that has long since passed and lived through a most tumultuous century with wit, humour, and wisdom. He leaves behind two children and two grandchildren.

He never forgot his old school and often talked about it with affection, singing the Hymerian anthem when he was over 100 with great gusto. He would be delighted to know that he is still remembered over a century from his birth; perhaps the best qualified of “Old Hymerians”.

by Tim and Anna Goldrein

His younger brother was Neville Goldrein CBE, OH 1932-41, who died in April 2020 at the age of 95 years old.

To read more about Eric's memories of World War II, please visit:

D-Day Revisited - Veterans' Stories: Eric Goldrein

Awarded the Legion d’Honneur by France

100th birthday - Honoured by the village


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