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Eric Hatton passes to spirit world after lifetime dedicated to Spiritualism  He served the Movement, at local and national level, for 70 years

AT THE age of 89 and after major surgery for cancer from which he had made a remarkable recovery, Minister Eric Hatton – referred to by many as “Mr Spiritualism” – made his transition to the spirit world on 6 November. He passed peacefully at home, surrounded by his loved ones.

Eric and Heather had been married for over 52 years
    Eric and Heather had been married for over 52 years

One can only imagine the greeting he would have received in the spirit world from those he worked with for decades in promoting the truths of Spiritualism: mediums, healers, speakers and, above all, his wife Heather (pictured with him, right), who had made the same journey eight years earlier, following her death in June 2007.

Theirs was a remarkable, loving partnership that was never self-centred: service to others was paramount in their lives. As well as playing key roles in their local church at Stourbridge, West Midlands, and becoming trustees of Spiritualist charities, they also made time to assist individuals on a personal level.

Heather often used her psychic gifts to help others and Eric said that he never recalled her taking money for those sittings.

Her passing, ironically from a viral infection following successful heart surgery, was a huge loss to Eric, even with his knowledge of survival.

“Such was the strength and power of the bond of our intertwined lives that I felt deep within myself that she would do her utmost to take away my hurt and prove she was near,” Eric wrote in his autobiography, Taking Up The Challenge (2010), adding:

“Through the excellent mediumship of Gerard Smith, Eileen Davies and John Conway, to name but three, I received graphic and detailed personal evidence which surprised even me.

“In some sittings with these three, reference was made by Heather to incidents which I had long forgotten, and to verify them I had to make searching enquiries to confirm the accuracy of the details. Some were extremely personal, and though I would love to share their veracity here, I cannot, because in doing so I would be betraying a pact that Heather and I made.”

It was evidence of this calibre that first persuaded Eric, in the 1940s, that not only do we all survive death but communication between this world and the next is a reality.

The subject was first raised by his older brother, Bert, when home on leave from the Royal Air Force. He told Eric and their sister, Laura, that whilst working on Catalina and Sunderland flying boats he and other crew members had “seen” colleagues who had been killed in aircraft accidents. They even experienced these phantom airmen walking straight through them.

Eric, who by then was involved with local orthodox churches, was highly sceptical but Laura was open-minded, having met a young man who told her of his regular visits to a Spiritualist church on the outskirts of Birmingham. She met her brother’s scepticism with this retort: “Well, you challenge it, and find out whether it’s really true that people who die continue to live in another dimension.”

Stourbridge Spiritualist Church    Gordon Higginson
It was at Stourbridge Spiritualist Church that Eric Hatton first saw Gordon Higginson demonstrating mediumship

As the title of his autobiography confirms, he accepted the challenge and attended various demonstrations by mediums at local Spiritualist churches, including one in Union Street, Stourbridge, which he first visited in 1945. His association with that church continued for the next 70 years and it was there, on 20 November, that his funeral service was held. It was conducted by Gerard Smith, one of the mediums through whom he received messages from Heather after her passing.

As well as triggering Eric’s investigation of Spiritualism, brother Bert was to play an even bigger role in that quest. A year after he recounted seeing apparitions of dead airmen, Bert Hatton was the flight engineer on a Sunderland flying boat that took off at night from Singapore and crashed into the sea. Some of the crew survived but Bert was not one of them. The Hattons were devastated, of course.

Some time later, Eric and Laura went to Stourbridge Spiritualist Church to hear a medium who had just come out of the Army. His name was Gordon Higginson and the remarkable evidence he provided impressed everyone, though Eric and Laura were not among the recipients. A few weeks later, however, a letter from the secretary of Longton Spiritualist Church, near Stoke-on-Trent, arrived at their home.

It contained the news that their brother, Bert, had manifested during one of Higginson’s circles at the church. He had not only given his full name – Albert Donald Hatton – but also the nickname that was used by only Eric and Laura: ‘Kim’. In addition, they were given his full six-digit service number.

Furthermore, their dead brother described the circumstances of the aircraft’s crash and revealed that some of the crew had survived – information that had not yet been shared with the family by the Air Ministry.

It brought enormous comfort to the Hattons and Eric later described the message as “the cream on the cake” because “from that point on I became absolutely convinced of the continuity of life”.

And with that conviction came a determination to comfort whenever he could others who were grieving and to encourage them to explore the spiritual implications that came with that knowledge.

That decision was reinforced when fate brought Heather Jermy into his life.

Born just five days before Eric, in 1926, but many miles away on the Isle of Wight, just off England’s south coast, Heather was the daughter of Spiritualists who had founded Ventnor Spiritualist Church in 1938, the first on the island. She became very familiar with mediumship from her childhood.

Being just five miles off the mainland, the Isle of Wight was heavily targeted by the Luftwaffe during World War Two, because early warning radar equipment was located there, and so, for their daughter’s safety, the Jermys decided to send her to Stourbridge, to be close to her sister-in-law.


Music and mediumship

And that is how Eric and Heather came to meet – not in Stourbridge Spiritualist Church, as one might imagine, but at a rehearsal of the North Worcestershire Operatic Society. As those who knew Eric were well aware, music was as important in his life as Spiritualism and he often combined both with his memorable solo performances at Spiritualist meetings.

Their long and happy courtship culminated in marriage at the Stourbridge church on 27 Dec 1955, after which they produced two children, Lisa and Jonathan, and began giving energetic support not only to that church but also to other Spiritualist bodies.

Eric’s autobiography reads like a “Who’s Who of Modern Spiritualism” as he recounts an impressive range of phenomena that he witnessed. Healing from Harry Edwards for a back injury produced a miraculous result; at an Alec Harris materialisation séance he saw two spirit guides and a child materialise simultaneously, and then the curtain was pulled back to show the entranced medium as well; and his account of Vincent Turvey’s “phonevoyance” – a unique form of mediumship – makes for incredible reading.

His commercial skills – he was a successful businessman – were also in demand within the Spiritualist movement. Eric was president of Stourbridge Spiritualist Church for almost half a century, from 1963 until he stepped down in 2011, but had held other posts at the church since 1948. At the time of his passing he was honorary president.

Eric also became president of the Spiritualists’ National Union (SNU) when he took over from his friend of many years Gordon Higginson, on his sudden death in 1993 at the age of 73. Gordon had held that post for 22 years, and Eric had served him as vice-president since 1985, having already given more than 30 years of service to the Union in other capacities.

JV Trustees: Hugh and Margaret Davis and Eric Hatton
JV Trustees: Hugh and Margaret Davis and Eric Hatton

Since being ordained an SNU Minister on 2 April 1976 – an office that requires sponsorship and special qualities as well as placing various responsibilities on those on whom it is bestowed – Eric had also been in demand to conduct weddings, naming ceremonies, funerals and other events not only at Stourbridge but in other churches, too.

On August 9, 2009 Eric was presented with a “Lifetime Achievement Award for Services to Spiritualism” in a service at Stourbridge attended by 200 well-wishers, including SNU leaders.

In addition to all his dedicated services, most of them performed in the public eye, Eric and Heather were both trustees on a number of charities, most notably the JV Trust which gave millions of pounds for renovations to the Arthur Findlay College, also known as Stansted Hall, and financial support to numerous churches.

Eric and his fellow JV Trustees, Hugh and Margaret Davis, also rescued and helped relaunch Psychic News as a magazine, after its demise as a newspaper in 2010. In doing so, he was able to keep a promise he made to the publication’s founder, Maurice Barbanell, that he would do whatever he could to keep Psychic News in print if it ever encountered difficulties.

In a life that spanned almost nine decades, it is inevitable that most memories of Eric Hatton will be associated with the past and with people who have long since passed to the spirit world. But Eric, who had a mischievous sense of humour and was great company, was also very modern in his outlook.


Family pay tributes

He had his own Facebook page, as one might expect from someone with such a close relationship with his children and grandchildren – though he relied on others to keep it up to date, of course – and the fact that he was strong enough to attend his granddaughter’s wedding in the summer, after a major operation for cancer, was a source of great joy to him and his family.

Facebook has also given many admirers among his family and friends the opportunity of expressing their love and admiration for him, and the following few comments remind us of his many qualities.

Jamie Beech, his grandson, wrote: “So sad to lose my grandfather this weekend but knowing he is free of pain and suffering makes this all a lot easier. Words can’t describe what he was to me so I will just say, he was my inspiration, hero and best friend all at the same time.”

Trish Oliver had this to say: “I was lucky enough to call Eric Hatton my uncle. Like so many people I loved him greatly. My thoughts are with Susan Farrow, Lisa Hatton, Jon Hatton and his grandchildren who he thought the world of.”

Sue Farrow accompanies Eric Hatton to his granddaughter’s wedding earlier this year
   Sue Farrow accompanies Eric Hatton
to his granddaughter’s wedding
earlier this year

“Eric was a true gentleman, a man of great peace, wisdom and compassion and what he didn’t know about Spiritualism wasn’t probably worth knowing,” said Mark Stone. And Dawn Brooks described him as “the most wonderful, inspiring gentleman and the embodiment of spirituality”.

Much of Eric Hatton’s life story would have been lost to us had it not been for the encouragement of Susan Farrow, when she was Editor of Psychic News, to commit it to paper and share it with a wider audience. Here’s how it happened:

“I’ve had only two what I call ‘lightbulb’ moments in my life – those extraordinary spine-tingling encounters where there is an instant recognition and ‘knowing’ of a person you’ve never physically met before,” Sue explains.

“The second of those occurred early in 2008 when Eric Hatton walked into my office at Psychic News. Our meeting was intended to be brief, but I recall that we talked for about two hours, non-stop. I listened spellbound to his accounts of the great mediums and speakers he had known, plying him with questions, recognising that he possessed a depth of knowledge, experience and wisdom unmatched by anyone in the Movement.

“From that day on, our friendship grew, developing into a bond of deep trust and affection. I often spoke to him about the need to set down his unique experiences in a book. But Eric, ever humble and self-effacing, was reluctant, believing it would be too egocentric a thing to do.

“It took me over a year to persuade him of the importance of such a book, and in the autumn of 2009 we began work. Taking Up The Challenge was published in December 2010 and so popular did it become that Eric was still signing copies at what proved to be his final JV Trust week in September 2015.

“For the last few years of his earthly life I was profoundly privileged to share a home with Eric as his companion and helper. Those years were beset by health problems, some extremely serious and debilitating, yet all borne with the gracious, patient and indomitable spirit that so epitomised the man who became known as Spiritualism’s elder statesman.

“It is impossible to express my feelings on the physical loss of my beloved companion. I know only two things: that we shall never see his like again, and that I have been more fortunate and blessed than I could ever possibly have imagined or deserved.”

Eric’s new friend, Suko
Eric’s new friend, Suko

A bonus for Eric in his final years was that Sue’s dog, Suko, came with her and “became more Eric’s than mine”. She adds: “They had such a devoted bond, and throughout his last illness she refused to leave his side even for a moment, to the extent that she would not even go to the kitchen to eat.

“In Eric’s last few days I had to carry her to the garden for calls of nature. She would do the necessary in the shortest possible time and race back to his bed immediately. And they say dogs don’t have souls....” 

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