LIFELONG Islander and popular bus driver Eric Churches has died at St Mary’s Hospital at the age of 87.

He was the second child born to Robert and Elsie Churches at Coombe Farm, Brighstone, where his father worked.

He had three sisters — Joyce, Alma and Sylvia — all of whom pre-deceased him.

The family moved to Havenstreet, then Brading, and Eric was educated at the village schools in all three locations before attending Freshwater Agricultural School before starting work, aged 15, for the Paul family at Beaper Farm.

There he drove motor vehicles around the farm including an ancient char-a-banc from Mr Paul’s coach company, converted to a flat bed lorry.

At 18, Eric started his three-year National Service, serving with the Royal Army Service Corps in Egypt and Cyprus.

His Egyptian service was in the Suez war zone, driving for the Canal Army bus service, which included a vehicle he believed had once worked for Seaview Services.

Inevitably upon returning to civilian life, Eric joined Southern Vectis as a driver, first at Shanklin and then at Ryde, where he was popular with both passengers and colleagues in a 44 year career of professional driving.

He left the company briefly in the ‘60s to drive lorries for British Roadways but soon returned to life as a busman, until retirement in 1999.

Eric met Ryde-born Val Medley soon after starting work and they regularly went roller-skating at the rink at Ryde Pier Head.

They married at Newport Register Office in 1956 and lived at Brading before moving to Binstead in 1962.

They had three sons — Steven in 1957, Andrew in 1959 and Ian in 1967.

For more than 50 years, Eric was an enthusiastic member of the Island’s pigeon-racing community.

He was also a keen and knowledgeable gardener. For some years he and a colleague kept turkeys and had a regular clientele to purchase them at Christmas.

He maintained contact with the local Suez Veterans’ Organisation, attending meetings and lunches regularly at the Chequers Inn, Rookley.

He and his wife were also members of the Southern Vectis Retirement Association.

Eric had a good memory and could recall many Island characters he had known over the years.

He narrated the commentary for a DVD about Newport’s market days.

He leaves his wife Val, after 65 years of marriage, three sons, and their families including seven grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

A funeral service was held at the Isle of Wight Crematorium.