Creative Prose Musings

Eulogy for Philip Hadley

the speech i read at my grandfather's funeral

Today was the funeral for my now late grandfather, Philip John Augustine Hadley. As the youngish, literaryish, rakish, one in my family, I was nominated to collate and read some words on behalf of my dad and his brother and, I suppose, the family as a whole. What follows are the words I spoke, which I produced by collating conversations I had with Philip’s two sons. A lot of the topics discussed here are things I know nothing about (e.g. sport, West Midlands local history, etc) and the details supplied are all second hand. Tbh, this is more for me than for you, as the last time I read anything in public was at my nan’s funeral about three years ago and I haven’t been able to find the notes for that speech since. Once on this dirty website, though, Philip’s eulogy is safe forever. I have changed the names of my father and his brother in this online version because I know a lot of baby boomers get weird about their names appearing on the internet.

Hello. My name is Scott, I’m Philip’s grandson, and I’ve been asked by my father, Dean, and his brother, Sammy, to read a few words on their behalf. They were both very close to their father and understandably felt this might be too difficult for them.

My dad wants me to talk about how his father was an inspiration to other people, to people who live long lives, in the way that he continued to retain an interest in current affairs right until the end of his life. Philip, Grampa, I called him, but I know most of you didn’t, he continued to embrace cultural change as he aged, and didn’t relate everything to how the world existed in the past. The example my dad asked me to cite here was a cricketing example, which was an interest both he and his brother shared with their dad. Philip really enjoyed watching 20/20 cricket, which is completely different to the cricket he grew up with, and my dad is certain that most other cricket fans of Philip’s generation would have been horrified by the changes.

My dad and his brother speak of their father as a man who learnt from the things he saw, for example: his time in the army at the end of (and just after) the second world war didn’t give him a hatred for foreigners, but rather a respect for what people of different countries have in common. Philip was in Northern Ireland, training, during the last few months of the war and then in Germany during peacetime. He was a royal engineer, and It was during the period in Northern Ireland that he learnt to drive, and as a soldier at the time he didn’t need a licence, so Philip never had to take a driving test. Certainly, from what I can remember about his driving when I was a child, I can believe that.

Before he joined the army, but after the war had started, Philip worked for his dad, when he was a teenager. This must have been an unusual experience, doing office work as the world burned. You could see, I’ve been told to mention, the flames of Coventry from Headless Cross [a hill in Redditch, Worcestershire, the town where I am from] during the Blitz.

After his time in the army, Philip went into the family business, then when he was in his mid 20s he met his wife, Joan, at the village inn in Beoley [a village near the town], where today’s wake for Philip will be held, fittingly. It was also where he had his stag party, so clearly a significant pub in his life so an appropriate one for his friends and family to celebrate his life in today. Similarly, this church is important for him too, as this was where he got married, and where all four of Philip’s grandchildren were christened. When he met Joan, she was working at Redditch hospital as head of the A&E department. She was almost exactly the same age as him, there was only a month between them. Joan and Philip fell in love and were married within a couple of years. They got a dog, and then their first child Dean, my father, was born when Philip and Joan were both 28, followed by Sammy, about two and a half years later. They lived in Brooklands Cottage, Beoley.

My dad brings up a very vivid memory from his childhood quite regularly, which happened the first time he was left looking after his younger brother alone. While their parents were out, the news broke about JFK’s assassination and when they got back in they didn’t believe my father until they’d heard the news themselves.

So, Sammy went off to Bristol university when he was 18, and Dean left home when a bit older to get married.

As Joan’s career in local politics took off, Philip helped and supported her emotionally, and one event that he spoke to me about several times was the time he and Joan visited Auxerre, the French town that became twinned with Redditch while Joan was chair of the town council. The street his final home was on for the last decades of his life was Auxerre Avenue, which I think was fitting.

Sammy asked me to speak about how Philip was a happy man, and how for him this was always the word he would go to if trying to sum his dad up. Philip saw humour in a lot of things, laughed a lot, often making self-deprecating jokes, which is a trait that certainly continues down to my generation in the family. Philip transmitted happiness, he was funny and warm, and both of his sons felt that in his presence they would often be swept away by Philip’s whimsical observations and witticisms. And his funny hats.

My dad, Dean’s, strongest last memories of his dad are from this summer just gone, when his father – who, let’s remember, turned 94 in September – had a period of good health. My dad remembers watching television with Philip, Philip laughing particularly hard at Andrew Flintoff singing Neil Diamond songs and falling over during the final of the 20/20 cricket. Both of Philips’ sons wanted me to emphasise this joy they found laughing with their dad, spending time with him, whether that was out and about or, in later years, in Philip’s flat, in front of the TV.

Philip lived a long life and experienced lots, but he never stopped engaging with the world and current affairs. He had the internet installed when he was over 90, and he was writing letters to the local MP up until his final year. He was an engaged and an engaging man, and his long happy life, particularly his strong relationship with his sons, is definitely something to be celebrated and something to aspire to. He was a lifelong cricket fan, so I think it’s only fair to end with that old cliché, for once very appropriate, because Philip did have a very good innings. Thank you.

Photo on 23-11-2017 at 17.00 #2.jpg
Two photos of my late grandfather

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