Nick Curtis in the Evening Standard has a go at obituary writers in his piece tonight. He argues that you can’t libel the dead so why not tell the truth. He liked the obituary of Michael Jackson in Private Eye, headlined Mad Paedophile Dead.
After all, when the true stories are published, the truth comes out anyway. So why not print it in the obituary!
I seem to have come across him first, as he had written one of C’s books for her History and Politics course at Liverpool. But I remember him most for his book that he wrote in conjunction with Jimmy Langley, MI9: Escape and Evasion in 1939-1945. In there he relates how the first two British servicemen to make a Home Run from Germany were two Sikh sergeants in the Pioneer Corps.
It is a tale that has fascinated me and no-one seems to have any more knowledge than that one line in the book.
Hopefully, one day the tale will fully surface.
I have said before that C used to visit prisoners in Holloway Prison in the early 1970s.
Yesterday, the Times and other papers carried reports of the death or full obituaries of the death of Stella Cunliffe.
Here is the report of her death on the Surrey Today website.
I have a feeling that C used to visit Holloway prison in a group, which involved this formidable lady. She seems to have provided the statistical evidence for the abolishment of capital punishment in parts or all of the UK. The obituaries vary.
There’s more here on Wikipedia, which states she was one of the first civilians to go into Belsen.
I think I met her a couple of times in about 1970 and we never knew what she did. Her male friend and they were just that, was a senior hospital manager and one of the best practical jokers that I’ve ever come across. I have to admit to stealing one of his best jokes.
Another obituary in The Times today is of Frank Horwill. By forming the British Milers Club and developing advanced training methods, he had a lot to do with the success of British middle-distance runners in the 1970s and 1980s.
He didn’t fit in with the athletics administrators, but how many great coaches in any sport do? And how many useless coaches do well-funded sports employ?
It was this paragraph in the obituary that I liked.
Four years later Horwill was found to be suffering from stomach cancer. He reacted with the sort of resolve that he sought in his athletes. To the consternation of his nurses he got out of bed each day to exercise with a drip attached to him. “I am going to enjoy this day,” was his mantra. He survived for another 23 years.
C had that attitude to her breast cancer and won by a mile. Sadly, her cancer of the heart was a much tougher problem.
In some ways though, Frank got the last laugh, as after serving a prison term for tax evasion, which was essentially to fund his athletes, he was rewarded with an MBE last year.
Bob Anderson has just died and his obituary is in The Times today. He had been an Olympic fencer and fencing coach until he started coaching actors in films.
Reading his credits, you get the impression that he was involved in organising the sword fights in every film that had one in the last few decades. He was also a double for Darth Vader in the Star Wars films.
In one incident he actually stabbed Errol Flynn. However, they remained good friends.
I’m half watching a play about Hitler. But I’m finding it a bit difficult to follow, probably because of the hay fever’s effect on my hearing.
It is set in or about 1930 and I am reminded of another tale. It is in Lord Howard de Walden’s obituary in The Guardian.
He inherited 120 acres of London’s west end and bred and owned the 1985 Derby winner, Slip Anchor. But the story he loved to dine out on was when, as a young Cambridge student fresh out of Eton, he was driving a new car in Munich when a man walked out in front of him and was knocked down. “He was only shaken up,” recalled de Walden. “But had I killed him, it would have changed the history of the world.” The man was Adolf Hitler.
I never actually met him, but I knew a few people who worked for him, who never said any word about him that wasn’t complimentary. My last vision of him was shortly before he died, sitting in state in a wheel-chair at Newmarket races, immaculately turned out ciomplete with apricot coloured socks; his racing colours as suggested by Augustus John.
Little is to be found on the Internet about George Charlesworth, who died last month. He was the man, who suggested the black and white stripes to improve pedestrian crossings and was therefore nicknamed Dr. Zebra. His obituary is here.
He is one of those few people, who have earned a similar inscription on their grave as Christopher Wren.
Reader, if you seek his memorial – look around you.
There are only a few of whom that can be said.
I’d never heard of Rudolf Brazda, until I saw his obituary today, but it gives deep insight into how the Nazis just didn’t persecute Jews, but a lot of others as well. Brazda was gay and somehow kept himself alive amongst the horrors of Buchenwald.
I’d never heard of Cec Thompson, who was one of the first black players to play rugby league for Great Britain, until I found this story on the BBC’s web site. He has just sadly died at 85, after an incredibly full life, which to say the least started very badly.
He is the sort of person, who is an inspiration to everybody. His obituary in the Telegraph tells more.
Unless of course you consider 95 to be before your time.
Arthur Budgett was a racehorse trainer, who is one of only two people to have bred, owned and trained two Derby winners. In his case they were Blakeney and Morston. C and I actually used Blakeney to cover one of our mares and I had the pleasure of meeting the horse several times at the National Stud, where he was very much a favourite of everybody.
To get more of the flavour of someone who seems to have been a truly good man, read his obituary in the Telegraph. I particularly like this paragraph.
That he had only two head lads — Denis Rayson and Tow Dowdeswell — throughout the 30 years that he was training speaks elegantly of his consistency of character and the esteem in which he was held by his staff. Despite all the success he enjoyed, Arthur Budgett remained a modest and unfailingly courteous man, though he would fight his corner resolutely when he thought he was being unfairly treated — as happened when one of his horses was subjected to a dope test, and an official attempted to prevent him from having an independent vet carrying out another test. Budgett won his point; had he not done so, his career could have been brought to a very early end.
They don’t make people like that these days. More’s the pity.