He was in constant celebration of being alive

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?

Related article:

The Funeral Service of Patrick Leigh Fermor, 16 June 2011


14 thoughts on “He was in constant celebration of being alive

  1. Pingback: The Funeral Service of Patrick Leigh Fermor, 16 June 2011 « Patrick Leigh Fermor

  2. Pingback: An account of Paddy’s funeral « Patrick Leigh Fermor

  3. Roy Boyles

    Thank you Tom, an excellent review of the PLF funeral last week. I was there too as part of the I.Corps honour guard. Your estimate of 100 or so in a full St Peter’s was rather wide of the mark, 200 would have have been nearer. No matter, it was a moving experience and I was privileged to have been in attendance,

  4. Pingback: The Funeral Service of Patrick Leigh Fermor (16 June 2011). | Durrell 2012: The Lawrence Durrell Centenary.

    1. proverbs6to10 Post author

      Linked to you on the Paddy blog. I will publish a piece about your site in the near future. I think we shall do something similar for Paddy. Good luck.

  5. durrell2012

    Many thanks for this thoughtful report. Those readers living across the water and unable to attend Paddy’s funeral appreciate your writing here.

    I will leave a small votive here for Paddy — a “miroloy” for another fallen soldier.

    So they joined his hands and closed his eyes
    And now the whole wide world is weeping;
    Weeping for his dew-sprinkled youth
    Which was as clear as the cool waters of May.
    Bravery was in his step, his motion was that of an eagle,
    His face was that of an angel, his beauty like that of the Virgin Mary’s.
    His bravery leaves us deeply in his debt,
    For it was for the honour of Greece he came.
    What will his mother and sisters do without him?
    We arrayed our fearless captain like a bridegroom
    And men armed with guns bore him along the streets,
    And all the world brought wreaths of laurel
    So that this hero should be buried, as it was fitting,
    Among the olive trees of St. Saviour.

    – “Miroloy for the English Airman,”
    translated by Patrick Leigh Fermor,
    Mani: Travels in the Southern Peloponnese (1958).

  6. Marina Petsalis-Diomidis

    Thank you so much. I had been wondering if and how one would get to hear someting about how he was laid to rest and you have written it up in full!
    About the title of to the blog, it occurred to me that ‘in constant celebration of being alive’ wouldn’t be too bad either. A little corny perhaps… The opposite extreme would be to use Daphne Fielding’s remark about bottling Paddy so one could take a pill when feeling down! I definitely like the thinking behind what you have chosen, but cannot help finding it a little awkward nevertheless. Perhaps re-reading of his books will eventually yield the best option.

  7. Tor Skauli, Norway

    Tom, ….thank you for an informatively and comforting letter. I will just inform you that on the Facbook page “Patrick Leigh Fermor”, there have been 305 visits last week.

    Best wishes from Tor Skauli, Norway

  8. Maggie Rainey-Smith

    Thank you, Tom. Oh I imagine the local people from Karadmyli would have wanted to be there too and can imagine the sadness that prevails over the village, in the local inns and at the Post Office, where he was deemed to be ‘their Paddy”. I’m sure there will be many a pilgrim to St Peter’s in Dumbleton, the way we go to Sligo for Yeats,or to Père Lachaise to seek our the writers we love/d.


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