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Members of St. Mary’s

Merlin Skinner

Merlin Skinner is a long-standing member of the St Mary’s congregation. He is head server so trains and organises the servers, plays guitar in the Free Spirit music group and is a PCC member. He also looks after the sound reinforcement system in the church.

Where did you grow up? What are your early memories?

I’ve always lived in Caterham, apart from my first three months when the family were in a caravan in Bromley. My grandparents lived in Caterham so very early on in my life we moved to a house in Roffes Lane to be near them. Did you know that part of it was previously known as Holliday’s Bottom? We lived where there was a dip in the road, and I remember it used to flood every so many years. Our house was flooded several times; at least once very badly. The cat’s drinking bowl floated from the kitchen into the living room!

The family moved into a cottage next to my grandmother, so my early memories are of spending a lot of time with her. My mother passed away very suddenly when I was 8 years old, so it was very good to have my grandmother next door.

My sister Melody and I went to Hillcroft and de Stafford schools, so I’ve always been local. My father remarried and I gained a half-sister, Vicky. Subsequently, I found myself with three more (half) sisters, Charlotte, Abigail and Rebecca. I grew up around a lot of girls!

Merlin is quite an unusual name and has somewhat mystical connotations; is there a story behind that?

Well my father was pretty interested in the Arthurian legend, but the origins may be a little less glamorous than just that. My dad is also very interested in World War Two aircraft – he’d grown up during the war – and there was a trend of naming Rolls Royce engines after birds of prey, for example Griffon and Merlin, and so it came from that. Mind you, I think my mother agreed to it because of the Arthurian side.

My name can be a talking point and I occasionally get asked for my opinion on baby names and whether having an unusual name is a disadvantage. I actually like it, though it did sometimes cause a bit of friction at school, but at the end of the day you just have to own it.

What line of work did you go into?

After school I went to Bradford University to study electrical engineering, but the course was mainly heavy power and mathematics, which I realised was not for me, so I left. I later went on to study with the Open University. I’m a big fan of the OU which provides a 1st Class Honours degree with them. I’m a member of the Institute of Engineering and Technology, which means I have the letters MIET after my name, as well as CEng (Chartered Engineer).

I’ve always been an electronics hobbyist which is why I went into engineering, and for 25 years I worked in the field of flight simulation, which is used for training pilots. I now work in aircraft avionics, working on communications systems, based in Crawley.

My job has led to a lot of travelling over the years, (though not so much now), and has taken me all round the world, from Hong Kong to Mexico City.

When/how did you become involved with St Mary’s Church?

It started because my girlfriend at the time used to go to St Paul’s Church in Banstead Road, which then joined with St Mary’s after the St Paul’s building was no longer viable. The girlfriend moved away but I stayed!

I first became interested in churches from an architectural point of view and had no interest in the content. I had preconceptions about the type of people who I thought attended church, but once I started coming it made me question religion and my views of the people around me. A couple of years later I was baptised in St Lawrence’s and the following week was confirmed in St Mary’s. This was when Michael Hart was rector; I would have been in my late 20s at the time.

I got involved in the church quite quickly after that, first becoming a server, then head server and for a while now I’ve led the servers, doing the rotas, training and general maintenance of making sure it all runs smoothly.

I’ve been on the PCC at various times over the years and have served on several committees. With my background I’ve been able to give technical input when needed, for example with the sound system. I wrote the spec and dealt with contractors and the diocese when the sound system was installed, and I was also involved with the mobile phone mast.

I started playing the guitar when I was aged about 30 – I’m self-taught – and found it a useful break from the pressures of life. For some time now I’ve been playing with Free Spirit at St Mary’s and enjoy our band practice on Tuesday evenings.

What are your interests outside work and St Mary’s?

Well, playing the guitar as I’ve mentioned. One of my other hobbies is target shooting – point two-two prone target shooting to be precise, and I run the prone section at my shooting club. I got into it through my father who was in the club when I was growing up. I belong to the Croydon League – it’s a pastime which needs some skills but is also social; we always go to the pub afterwards.

I’m a big fan of science fiction, the likes of Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke and Iain M. Banks. My favourite film is Alien and I love Game of Thrones. I’m also an avid Radio 4 listener.

I enjoy travelling too. I mentioned that I did a lot of travelling with my job, but I also love seeing the world through holidays. Visiting India and a number of other places for example has changed my perception of the world. There’s so much life out there; such interesting things.

I do like to keep busy I suppose. My week is sewn up: apart from working full time I do shooting on Mondays; band practice on Tuesdays; I usually see my girlfriend Pippa several times a week; church on Sunday… yes. It’s fair to say I have a busy life and I’m involved in many things

Praying Together

Making time to pray together on the

first Wednesday of the month

Wednesday 3rd July

Wednesday 7th August

at 7pm

A time of Silent Prayer

followed by the short service of Compline

in the Sacrament Chapel, St. Mary’s Church

Led by  Rev. Frany Long

The Beacon - Page 1

Beacon magazine cover page A Burning Candle

Page 1

Members of St. Mary’s

Prayer Breakfast

Praying Together

Page 2

Guided Tours

Afternoon Teas

Friends of Chaldon Church

Page 3

From the Registers

Munch with Music


Page 4

East Surrey Walkers

Live at St. Lawrence’s

Prayer Breakfast

Where? 56 Roffes Lane, Chaldon;

park in Heathway.

When? Saturday, July 6th.

and every first Saturday of the month  thereafter, at 8.15am, for no more than an hour.

What is it? An opportunity to meet for prayer and fellowship together.

We begin with coffee and croissants and then share a time of prayer together.  Prayers are offered for any matters that are concerning those who gather.  

Hope to see you there.    

Revd. Frany

Cup and Croissant

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Merlin Skinner