On 7th December 2022 my lovely dad went back to the light.
I was with him as he passed, along with my younger sister, Gen, and his beloved partner, Margaret. That was one of the most profound, intense, painful, and strangely beautiful moments of my life. I am so glad I was there holding his hand. And I am so incredibly grateful for the love, wisdom and support he gave me, always.
I feel called to share the tribute I wrote for him, some of which I read at his funeral. He was a private man, but, tough luck, dad, I want everyone to know what a wonderful person you were and how much I love you. You are so missed. Though I feel your spirit continuing to guide me and your eternal love beaming down from your new home in the stars.
Rest in peace and joy, dad. I love you.
“Possibly I am biased, but, my dad was the kindest, most generous, and most brilliant man I have ever known. Perhaps that’s why I’m still single; I’m yet to meet someone who can live up to his example!
Nicholas… Nick… Nicky… by whichever name you knew him, I’m sure you’ll agree, he was a truly special soul. A gentleman. A carer. An intellectual. A great thinker. A poet. An artist. An environmentalist. A custodian of the English language.
He could speak legalese, old English, Devonshire dialect (with the accent), a bit of Irish (mostly the rude words), and Cockney Rhyming Slang. Gosh, how he made me laugh. He could spin a hilarious limerick off the top of his head or a tongue-in-cheek song that would have us in fits of giggles. I would share some here but his cunning sense of humour might not be deemed suitable for church!
Some of my fondest childhood memories are of our road trips, which were lengthy, as he never broke the speed limit, and for a long time drove a Morris Minor Traveller – turquoise – named ‘Morry’. Morry could only get up to 60 miles per hour and didn’t have a CD player, or a cassette player as it was in those days. And so, we made up songs together, played games and talked on our journeys from London to Sussex or to Devon, two parts of the world which he relished in sharing with us.
When eventually he did fit Morry with a music device, he invited us to play our favourite ‘90s pop music at full volume, never complaining, though surely much of it wasn’t to his taste. When a tune came on that he did particularly like, he’d play it on repeat, strumming his hands on the steering wheel with impressive rhythm, humming and singing harmonies, and tapping his foot on the floor to the beat. Margaret reminded us recently that in his later car, a little green Renault, he tapped his foot so much that he wore a hole in the floor through which you could see the road underneath! Music was, without a doubt, one of his greatest passions.
So was nature.
Another reason why our car journeys took so long was that dad always chose ‘the scenic route’. He loved the English countryside, more at home here in Devon than he was in London. It was commonplace for him to pull over into a lay bay, quite suddenly, so that we could all get out and look at the view. ‘Look at the light over there!’ I can hear him say. ‘Isn’t that marvellous?!’ He was enthralled by natural beauty and he wanted to share these simple, serene moments with whomever he was with.
He taught us the names of the birds and trees. He taught us how to rub dock leaves on our skin if we brushed against a stinging nettle. He taught us to shake our wellies before putting them on to make sure there were no creepy crawlies in there – not so much for our safety, but because he’d loathe to kill an insect, even a mosquito! I remember him being alarmed one day to find me hoovering up cobwebs in his house, halting me in my tracks, and proceeded to carry, individually by hand, a dozen or so spiders from the house, carefully re-homing them in the garden. He didn’t mind their company at all.
Then there was the time he did an emergency stop on a country lane, quite to my surprise, as it appeared to be for no reason. He got out, walked to the front of the car and peered at the ground. On returning, he explained: ‘Just a leaf; thought it was a frog.’
Of all his accomplishments, being our father was, in my eyes, his greatest. He was a wonderful dad: caring, patient and endlessly supportive of our wild endeavours.
I will treasure the early memories of shoulder rides, bouncing on his knee, and him singing to us our very own songs that he made up when we were little. His signature whistle (passed down from his father) which he used to gently wake us up in the morning or call us back if we got lost in the supermarket. The copious amounts of ice-cream. Hide-and-seek in the Temple Garden. And him reading us stories before bed: ‘Billy Bunter’ and ‘Rupert the Bear’ were his favourites.
He taught me how to tell the time.
He taught me how to drive.
He taught me to pick up litter and throw it in the bin, even if it wasn’t mine.
He taught me how to write (helping me to get a First at university through his impeccable editing skills).
He taught me how to paint and draw.
He taught me to smile at strangers and look them in the eye.
And most importantly,
He taught me how to be present:
Here and now,
Moving slowly and consciously,
Accepting each moment as it is,
And at the same time, how to dream a better world into being,
For he cared so deeply about the Earth and her people.
I always felt safe in my dad’s presence. His calm demeanour like a warm embrace. His smiling eyes softened my woes. His compassion and curiosity about the human spirit, an inspiration for how I will continue to live my life, in his honour.
Thank you for everything, dad.
Tributes from friends and colleagues
“I have so many fond memories of him, his kindness, wisdom and his tireless work behind the scenes on trying to keep things running as smoothly as possible. He was an outstanding lawyer, as well as being in possession of much more than his fair share of sound common sense. A problem shared with him was always a problem halved.”
“He helped many and was renowned for his courtesy, sympathy and support for many at the Bar, particularly new starters.”
“I owe to Nick an enormous debt of gratitude. On a professional level, he instilled in me the importance of attention to detail whilst at the same time putting the client at the heart of the work. He was determined to get it right, and to achieve fairness and justice for all he worked with. Nick’s sense of integrity informed all he did. His voice and example have stayed with me throughout my professional life.
Even when he was ill during the summer, Nick rang me from his hospital bed. Even though he must have been in a great deal of pain, he was the same old Nick – interested and interesting, with a wicked sense of humour.”
“Those who knew him at the Bar and on the Bench appreciated his great competence and complete integrity. Of late, as he centred his life in Devon. I saw him less frequently and found I missed regular chats with him. Now, alas, he is gone and I will never again chat to him, nor benefit from his friendship, nor receive his wise counsel. That is a real loss to me, as I am sure it will be to many others.”
“I shared the news with many members of my family all of whom were shocked and sad to hear Nicky had lost his battle with cancer. It feels as if he was just too full of fun and laughter to be gone, but I believe such a spirit as his surely persists in a way we will only understand when we too embark on that journey.”