LOOKING BACK: Rotarian with life-long love of magic and USA

Peter Goldsmith with the memorial plaque of RMS Titantic at Eastbourne Bandstand
Peter Goldsmith with the memorial plaque of RMS Titantic at Eastbourne Bandstand

A former Eastbourne magician and highly regarded Rotarian has passed away.

Peter Goldsmith was also credited with raising money to have the RMS Titanic plaque at Eastbourne Bandstand restored.

Peter died on September 1 aged 79 and leaves his wife Anne, son Mark, daughter Tracey and six grandchildren Samantha, Jessica, Marcus, Ben, Iona and Bonie.

His funeral was held at Holy Trinity Church in Eastbourne yesterday (Thursday September 24) at midday.

Born in Eastbourne, Peter spent nearly all of his life in the town apart from a short spell when he was evacuated to Gloucestershire during the war with his parents, brothers and sister.

He attended Christ Church School, which was in a building next to the main Post Office which has since been demolished and is now flats.

He became interested in magic at the age of six and while a pupil at Bourne Secondary School at the age of 11, he performed many magic shows for his own school and for Bedewell School in Whitley Road where the Fire Station now stands.

At the age of 13 he had performed his magic for all kinds of functions around the town and also appeared in A Christmas Carol in the role of Tiny Tim at the Royal Hippodrome.

After his National Service with the Royal Sussex regiment in Germany, and his marriage to Anne, Peter made the decision to go professional with an idea he had planned in the Army which was to train and produce from thin air budgerigars, doves and the final production of a monkey in top hat and tails.

This proved successful and secured Peter and Anne, who then used the stage name of Karl Reno and Kay, a six week engagement at the famous Windmill Theatre in London.

This followed an appearance on Crackerjack with Leslie Crowther and the couple also appeared at all the West End nightclubs, in London theatres and the northern Variety Clubs.

Peter was also a member of the International Brotherhood of Magicians.

Peter and Anne returned to a more normal but perhaps less exciting life and started their own painting and decorating business.

In 1978 when they were living in Lewes Road, they bought the house next door converting both properties into the 30 bed Homelea Residential Care Home which they ran very successfully for 18 years.

Peter was a member of the Royal Sussex Regimental Association, the Royal British Legion, International Brotherhood of Magicians USA, ACES Magic Club Lewes, a past master of Chatsworth Lodge, a member of Mark Lodge, the Southern Skirmish Association, the American Civil War Round Table, Ashridge Circle and the Sussex Folk.

Peter was also an active member of the Rotary Club of Eastbourne for more than 30 years and president in 1991.

Friend Barrie Gent said, “We can still see the daffodils he had planted in his year on Eastbourne Road and he was awarded a Paul Harris Fellowship, the highest award in Rotary, for his services to the club.

“Another of Peter’s passions was the American Civil War and he visited the battle sites in America. He was an active member of the Southern Skirmish Association which re-enacted battles throughout this country.

“He had a great social conscience and we saw this recently when he raised money locally to renovate the plaque at the Bandstand commemorating musician Sir John Wesley Woodward who died on the Titanic.

“He will be sadly missed by so many people – family and friends.”

Peter launched a fundraising drive after he became fed-up at the state of disrepair the old Titanic plaque, at the Eastbourne Bandstand.

It pays tribute to John Wesley Woodward, a cellist in the ship’s orchestra who was part of the outfit which famously played while the ship sank into the icy waters, claiming the lives of 1,517 people on April 15, 1912.

Mindful of the then fast-approaching 100th anniversary of the disaster Peter set about raising the £1,200 needed to return the memorial to its former glory.

He hit his target after donations flooded and £1,800 was raised which helped repair the surrounding granite.

The original plaque was actually commissioned by newspaper publisher Arthur Beckett, whose family used to own the Gazette and Herald series.

Among the biggest donations was a bumper £400 from a Titanic heritage group in the US and a significant amount from the Langham Hotel, which held a host of fundraisers.

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