Tuesday, 15 June 2010

John Wilson Memorial

I had a very moving and humbling experience today. My old friend, John Wilson, who died recently, was given a (humanist) memorial celebration in the chapel of Balliol College, Oxford. It was quite an occasion.



As we gathered in the chapel to the sound of "Sit Down" by James -- which was moving in itself, but doubly so when we heard John had attended a James concert quite recently in his wheelchair -- it became astonishingly apparent how many people had taken the trouble to attend a memorial at midday on a Tuesday. The chapel was packed with what I would guess was 200 or more people, of whom perhaps only 20 were familiar faces. I knew John had led a full and multi-layered life, but -- as we heard tribute after tribute to the place John had held in the hearts and lives of the speakers -- the true scale of his network of friends and influence became apparent.

The Labour Party, the cyclists and the cycle shop, his cricket club, and most movingly the several generations of people who had lived with John at the farmhouse and whom he had helped and nurtured with his gruff generosity (often, it seemed, in the form of cups of tea). It all made the magnitude of his loss at age 52 more poignant. By the end the sniffling and eye-wiping was universal, and we were played out into the sunshine by the Grateful Dead ("Box of Rain").



Of course, I cannot have been alone in wondering how many people would have attended my own memorial, and was humbled by the calculation. Like Scrooge, I resolved to lead a better, fuller, more people-oriented life. Yeah, right. John's brother Phil had asked that we dress in a "colourful and flamboyant" way, both to mark this as a celebration, and to remember John's idiosyncratic fashion sense. Some interesting colourways were on display. Of course, someone always has to go too far...




The local Oxford papers have carried a couple of pieces on John. Here are links to one in the Oxford Times, and one in This is Oxfordshire. And here is an Oxford Times obituary.

7 comments:

Martin H. said...

Humanist memorials are always more moving, I feel. More about people and less about doctrinal clutter.

By the way, nice shirt! But more advanced warning next time please. I treated myself to a Mac mini last week and I thought the graphics card was trying too hard, for a moment.

Mike C. said...

A Mac, eh? If what I read is true, prepare for frustration and a long-term relationship with the "geniuses" at the Mac Store...

Mike

Martin H. said...

Oh, if I believed all I read.......

She runs like a dream and I am hopelessly smitten, but then I always was a sucker for a pretty face/fun personality combo.

I've rebuilt my laptop with the excellent Ubuntu 10.04, so this is pretty much a Microsoft-free zone now. Don't you hear the birds singing?

Mike C. said...

That's exactly what Doug Plummer said. Before all his stuff stopped working.

http://dougplummer.blogs.com/dispatches/pc_to_mac/

Lots of luck.

Mike

Bronislaus Janulis said...

Nice outfit Mike.

As to computers, I use both windows and macs; like macs more. The latest operating system for macs has caused many people grief; no platform is perfect, and being on the cutting edge sometimes causes bleeding. Doug's latest post is he is up and running.

8~)

redskiesatnight.com said...

The shirt's definitely not over the top! Of course, I live in Hawai`i, so I may be biased--looks like my everyday work dress...

Mike C. said...

Aloha, redskiesatnight! It was the best I could do... Of course, for you to stand out, you'd have to wear an "English Shirt", preferably of the top brand known as "Marks & Spencer".

Mike