Eric Gadd was an important and colourful figure in Bristol’s history in acknowledging and celebrating Brunel’s contribution to the city.
Also known as Caption Courage on Radio Bristol in the late 1960s, Eric was an enthusiastic storyteller of local yarns. On one of his tours of the docks, a child asked Eric where the ss Great Britain was. Eric didn’t know the answer, but promised to find out.
Discovering the sad demise of the once great vessel then languishing on a beach in the Falkland Islands, Eric was instrumental in forming the Brunel Society and the successful campaign to see the ss Great Britain returned to her dry dock. In September 1969, a hospital patient bet Eric £5 not to have his hair cut until the ship returned. Accompanied by a guard of honour of Sea Cadets, his shoulder-length hair was finally cut on 7th July 1970, the £5 donated to the Hospital Broadcasts Society and the locks sold for five shillings each to support the ship’s restoration fund.
The Brunel Society campaigned to ensure that the work of Brunel and his father was preserved, to promote research and to foster the men’s imaginative spirit.
On 9th April every year, Eric gave all the attendants at
Clifton Suspension Bridge a carnation to celebrate Brunel’s birthday.
In Brunel’s bi-centennial year, Eric’s widow June was keen
to revive the annual custom and, on a sunny morning in 2006, the bridge
attendants were happy to take part in the tradition!