A WARTIME evacuee to Cornwall who went on to become “more Cornish than us locals” and described as “Mr Ruan Minor” has died at the age of 91.

There has been a huge outpouring of tributes since the passing of Sidney Edward Johnson, known as Johno to everyone since boyhood.

Described by people in the community as “a legend”, “a wonderful gentleman who went over and above to help others” and “an incredible man, they just don’t make them like that anymore,” one tribute reads: “Ruan will never find a kinder or more caring member of our community.”

Giving perhaps the greatest honour a Cornish person can bestow, another simply wrote: “An evacuee who became more Cornish than us locals back in the day!”

Johno was evacuated to Cornwall in 1939 at the age of seven, with his brother Bertie. Their other brother and sister were too young to be evacuated and remained in London.

The two brothers went to live in Ruan Minor with a widower who was in his 80s, Richard Exelby, who they called Uncle Dick.

Uncle Dick, together with his daughter Laura, who they called Aunt Laura, would take the boys to Grade Church every Sunday and it was this that instilled in Johno a strong faith that never left him.

At school the young Sidney quickly became known as Johno, due to another boy already sharing the same name, and it stuck for life.

When the time came for Johno to return home after the war, on the day of collection he took a small rowing boat and rowed out to sea to prevent anyone from finding him.

It worked, and it was arranged with his family that Johno should stay in Cornwall.

Johno was evacuated to Ruan Minor at the start of the Second World War (Image: Family picture)

As a young teenager he would help milk cows on a local farm before going to school, then returning after school to milk them again.

At the age of 17 he went to work at Hendra Farm with the Roberts family, who he lived with until he married.

In 1952 he wed his wife, Gladys (nee Skewes) and they went on to have two sons, five grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.

Together, Johno and Gladys were staunch members of Ruan Minor Methodist Chapel, humbly serving God in the life of the chapel and the community. Johno was a chapel steward, while Gladys was treasurer for a time.

He was still attending chapel regularly right up until he was taken in to hospital before his death on May 31.

He will return to Ruan Minor Chapel once last time for his funeral, which will take place on Monday, July 1. In a personal, family touch, the service will be led by his daughter-in-law, herself a Methodist minister.

The service will feature many of Johno’s favourite hymns, before, during and afterwards, with singing and hymns among his passions, along with gardening.

He was a member of St Keverne Male Voice Choir, which went on to become Kerrier Male Choir, and enjoyed travelling all over Cornwall with them to sing.

A funeral for Johno will take place on July 1 (Image: Family picture)

After Johno left farming he went to work at Goonhilly Satellite Earth Station, as a maintenance engineer.

It was here, at the age of 57, that his colleagues presented him with a cake to mark 50 years of him being in Cornwall – declaring him now an “honorary Cornishman.”

In 2009, at the age of 77, Johno was made an MBE in the New Year’s Honours List, for services to the community of Ruan Minor.

His family have said: “He was totally devoted to the community. Everybody knew him and he was always welcoming people to the village.

“He was just a loving, caring person and has been his whole life. He thought it was a simple life, but it was a wonderful life, giving to other people.”

The details for Johno’s funeral have now been confirmed. The funeral will take place at Ruan Minor Methodist Church on July 1, at 11am, followed by a burial at Ruan Minor parish churchyard. The service will also be relayed outside the chapel and some seating will be available outside.

There will then be a wake at Ruan Minor Village Hall.

The collection at the service will be split between Grade Ruan Primary School, Ruan Minor Methodist Church and St Ruan Church, and donations can also be made through Pendle Funeral Services via www.pendlefunerals.org.uk