Heroic walker who raised thousands for charity dies aged 101

Kenneth Essex is walking 10km in 10 days for Hospice Aid UK

Kenneth Essex earned legendary status for his charity walks around Muswell Hill - Credit: Liz Golding

An esteemed musician who raised thousands of pounds for charity through marathon walks in old age has died at 101.

Violist Kenneth Essex, from Muswell Hill, walked 10km in 10 days for his 100th and 101st birthdays for Hospice Aid UK and Moorfields Eye Hospital – following in the footsteps of NHS fundraiser Captain Sir Tom Moore.

In July 2020 Ken brought up his century innings with a cake and a letter from the Queen, before being cheered on for his final lap by family, friends and neighbours who serenaded him with a performance of For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow.

The only child of Bertie Essex and Lilian (née Hutt), Ken was principal viola of the London Symphony Orchestra in the 1960s and he played the instrument professionally for nearly 60 years.

His impressive musical career saw him play in the string quartet recording of Yesterday by The Beatles and the theme music of Fawlty Towers.

Kenneth has played the viola for The Beatles and Fawlty Towers. Picture: Kenneth Essex family

Kenneth has played the viola for The Beatles and Fawlty Towers. Picture: Kenneth Essex family - Credit: Archant

He performed with the London Philharmonic Orchestra, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, and at Glyndebourne. 

Ken has featured in Eurovision Song Contests and in the Royal Variety. He also played a solo in the music of the film The French Lieutenant’s Woman. 

His daughter Liz Golding paid tribute: “I've had so many emails from musicians who have heard about his death.

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“They all say what an amazingly wonderful person he was – generous, kind, funny and welcoming. 

“He had an amazing memory, he told amazing stories. They loved listening to him and so many have said how much they're going to miss his phone calls.”

Kenneth outside his Muswell Hill after his 100th birthday

Kenneth outside his Muswell Hill after his 100th birthday - Credit: Family handout

Liz continued: “He was a very warm, open, friendly person and although he was at the top of his career, he was actually really humble.  

“He had no airs or graces at all. He was still the son of a baker from Hinckley in Leicestershire. He was just an ordinary person.  

“Although he was enormously talented you wouldn’t know it from speaking to him because he didn't really appreciate what high regard he was held in by the rest of the music profession.” 

Ken (1920-2021) died on October 11 after a short period of illness. He is survived by his children Liz, Catherine and John, five grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren.

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