DAD - Read by Paul and Katharine on behalf of the Family
Dad’s optimism, love of life and ability to embrace each day, has provided us with no shortage of great memories to provide rich content for today and also for us to take forward into the future. As we have already heard, Dad has touched so many different lives over the years and the reach in his lifetime is vast; Geographically; Scientifically; Academically and Philosophically.
Over the past few weeks it has been a huge comfort to receive so many kind notes, letters, memoriams and offerings from so many, so on behalf of all friends & family - Thank You from the bottom of our hearts. And how great it is to see so many here to share and celebrate Dad's life today. Both professionally and personally, Dad was a natural communicator and collaborator at many levels. Despite neither having done a management course nor joined an online social network he evolved and nurtured the best and most natural of these skills, through simply living a life he loved, and loved to share.
We have received SO many letters, emails and cards from across the globe. Here is just a very small selection of the many tributes we have received from some of those who knew Dad.
“..Mike’s ability to make friends and keep them set Mike apart from others... He did all of this in his usual way through networking, hard work and a large dollop of charm”
“Mike was truly a visionary, leader of men and genuinely nice man”
“All day long I've had this picture of Mike in my head, with that great big smile, the laugh and the personification of friendly. How lucky we have been to have known Mike”
“We will have a few drinks and tears for Mike tonight – but happy thoughts will be uppermost of a wonderful bloke”
“In his leadership of Sustainable Blewbury, Mike was an inspiring presence with his apparently boundless energy, enthusiasm and commitment“
“His simple living and high thinking is a source of inspiration for all of us”
and from Oliver age 6 “ Of course I remember Mike. He was the first person who showed me a whoopee cushion!”
Born into a Welsh heritage we have always valued our Celtic roots from both Mum and Dad coming from all corners of the UK. Gran Edmunds was the first women in the UK to complete a degree in Geography at UCL. His early family life certainly fueled a natural instinct and destiny for exploration, education and discovery. Whether it was travelling the UK on the early steam train networks, on foot or by bike as a teenager, his early work mapping the geology of Connemara in Western Ireland or even, having a Geology Professor at Liverpool who was a direct relation of Sir Ernest Shackleton
. He was always exploring and learning. One of his greatest discoveries was undoubtedly Mum in 1961 who, alongside Dad created a fantastic team and foundation of our lives. And how grateful we all are today that they found each other and eventually settled in Blewbury at the heart of this island.
Paul was born the year we moved to Wayside Cottage here in Blewbury but life before Paul included the Maidenhead years…. and memories for David, Victoria and I are fond and numerous, if not a little humorous! Of being transported in the bottom of sleeping bags in the back of a car in the early hours of the morning through the streets of Maidenhead as Mum and Dad headed home after a local house party. Of being serenaded to sleep by Dad on his banjo and grabbing his tie when he leaned over the the bunk bed to kiss us goodnight. (Bunk Beds that he had built no less) or piling into our red Austin Maxi come the summer holidays to head to the South of France on multi - family camping trips where Dad took on the role of chief pancake maker.
From 1977 we have all called Blewbury ‘home’. I expect that it is no coincidence that it is such a significant Spring-line village not to mention the 4 pubs! An inherently difficult village to move away from, Blewbury has been the canvas for many great memories from Dad’s regular cacti victories in the VPA shows to winning teams as Batman or Father Time in the Boxing day walks. Growing up we found huge adventure just in our back garden, venturing across and regularly falling into the streams, exploring Islands and lake, or Dad encouraging us to take on sections of the garden or allotment. It took some time, but his persistence paid off as just last year Katrina and I succeeded in growing a full crop of vegetables at home in Edinburgh - we were the envy of a poor year on the Blewbury allotment.
Dad’s love and passion for the local environment in Blewbury, alongside a broader understanding of global environmental issues, illustrates Dad’s view that the definition of a local or international problem is just a matter of perspective. As chairman of Sustainable Blewbury he has managed to help apply this ideology on many projects including working on the permaculture site on Woodway and helping to instigate Blewbury’s first Apple Day, a celebration of the orchards in and around Blewbury. His most recent perseverance in Watery Lane to get the new bridge replaced with a more suitable, rustic design has been rewarded with the most fitting memorial. When the bridge is completed it will be known in the County records as ‘Edmunds Bridge’ - a gesture which truly warms all of our hearts.
Blewbury’s link with Azhagiamanavalam in Southern India, and Dad’s close involvement with Wells for India in Rajasthan, as we heard earlier from Rob, are great examples of how Dad felt that solutions to international problems should start by understanding local issues. His early work trips to India and first hand experience of the poverty faced by people living there, combined with the natural hope and optimism instilled by the human spirit were influential in forming his work and relationships across Africa, Asia and the Middle East. We were never short of visits from Dad’s international colleagues and thoroughly enjoyed and benefitted from these connections over the family dinner table.
We are a family who loves to travel and some of our fondest memories were on our early regular childhood trips to the Islands of the Outer Hebrides on the West Coast of Scotland influenced by Dads love of the Culture, the Scenery and Nature.. and of course not forgetting the Rocks. Now I’m a father of 2, encouraging four young children to live in a television free remote farmhouse for 10 days every Easter holidays for several years in a row with just long walks as the only incentive, sounds like a challenge to me. However Dad’s vision, enthusiasm and perseverance created some of the greatest memories and a legacy to take forward. Some more recent return trips with the entire family to Snowdonia were evidence of this as we managed to entice our partners and an additional 6 grandchildren into a similar situation. This splendid location enabled more steam train opportunities, hiking, beaches, watercolour subjects and raucous, wine fuelled communal meals.
So Mum and Dad’s efforts must have paid off ! I should however note that, even on the most remote holidays, Dad had observed the distance to the local pub to keep updated on the Liverpool Football scores and in 2006 he even jumped on a ferry to Mull from the small island of Iona to watch England play in the World cup Qtr final….. only just making the last ferry back.
Dad was never short of a travel story. One of the most challenging being stranded off the west coast of Russia during the 1991 coup with Mum and an international (WRI) conference party, not knowing whether they would be able to return to Russia….. luckily they did!. We always remember driving through France without a windscreen and eventually breaking down in Florence when all six of us were transferred into a very small Fiat Punto to continue our holiday. Not to mention the time I went on a field trip with Dad at the age of 8 and ended up at a Stag Do in Spean bridge! We know there will be many more stories from family & friends which we will all continue to tell to each other with a smile
Dad has been the most wonderful grandfather over the past 15 years to Cameron, Fraser, Emilia, Anabelle, Georgina and Thomas, a role that he has loved. With each grandchild, he has identified their individual nature and nourished each with his guidance and enthusiasm, whilst sharing a huge love for them all. This included fossil hunting on the Jurassic Coast, steam train journeys at every opportunity around the country, allotment initiations, and for Fraser a special weekend away last summer with Granpa to Anfield to see their beloved Liverpool play Borussia Dortmund.
Both Mum and Dad have provided us with the most fantastic life memories which we will all continue to build upon. We take great pride and comfort from knowing the full life Dad led, brilliantly combining great vision as a Scientist, Naturalist, Artist, loving Father, grandfather, friend and husband. He will certainly live on through us all.
"A person that departs from this earth never truly leaves, for they are still alive in our hearts and minds. Through us, they live on. He will not be forgotten"