Yesterday we buried Paddy in the rich, copper coloured, breccia marbled soil of Worcestershire, next to his wife and soulmate, Joan. Their graves overlook the entrance to the small churchyard of Saint Peter’s in Dumbleton which dates from Norman times.
by Tom Sawford
Amongst the one hundred or so mourners were members of his family, his friends, and many others who came simply to pay their respects to a man who had given so much to them either through his friendship, his wartime activities, his writing, or just his simple acts of kindness and support.
The service, led by the Reverend Nicholas Carter, was moving, absorbing, and in fact quite conventional. But was it Paddy who added the interesting twist of a reading not from the New Testament, but from the Apocryphal Book of James, otherwise known as Protevangelium? This was read by Robert Kenwood.
The young British Soprano Sarah Gabriel started the service singing Amazing Grace unaccompanied, which was followed by Paddy’s friend and fellow writer Colin Thubron reading The Garden of Cyrus by Sir Thomas Browne. This was an interesting choice associated as it is with Hermetic wisdom. Whilst it was lovely to listen to, I certainly felt none the wiser after hearing it. As Colin returned to his seat he placed a hand on the Union Flag draped coffin as one might when passing a friend and patting them on the shoulder or forearm.
The first hymn was Baker’s The King of Love My Shepherd Is. It took a little while for the choir and the congregation to get into rhythmic step but once achieved it was sung with passion and meaning.
The hardest job of the day fell the Vicar, the Reverend Nicholas Carter, who like Paddy is apparently something of an exile, spending time living in France as well as ministering to the souls of those fortunate enough to live in the beautiful Vale of Evesham.
It was fortunate that Rev. Carter was a mature, ebullient, slightly rotund man, with a strong character and a voice to match. He admitted that he was ‘between a rock and a hard place’ when trying to say something about Paddy whose life had been full of words; a life as full as a ‘wine goblet overflowing with rich red wine’. How would he be able to do him justice? Wisely he kept the address short and flowing, talking about Paddy’s (or Sir Patrick as he constantly referred to him) achievements as a soldier, writer, walker, friend and most of all as someone who was ‘in constant celebration of being alive’.
The address was followed by prayers and the J S B Monsell hymn To Distant Friends and Close. Sarah Gabriel sang Vedrai Carino from Don Giovanni. A piper in the churchyard played Flowers of the Forest as the pall-bearers carried Paddy’s coffin out of the church, his medals, and his honour of the Order of the Phoenix laying colourful and shining upon a cushion. Members of The Intelligence Corps formed a Guard of Honour as we made our way out into a slightly overcast afternoon.
Paddy’s body was laid to rest with full dignity as a bugler from the Irish Guards played Last Post. After the Silence we looked up in joy and relief as he played Reveille, that tune which summons all old soldiers from their slumbers to join their comrades.
The sky threatened rain as we started to depart; but it hesitated, and finally submitted, with the clouds parting to reveal a blue sky, permitting a warm sun to shine on such a beautiful and peaceful corner of England. After all, how could it rain on the final parade of one who was in constant celebration of being alive?