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Anthony Wheatley’s Eulogy
Given by his son Dominic Wheatley at his funeral in 2014
My father loved this church. Not so long ago, before he became less mobile, he was up here, serving mass every Sunday. Any priest who fumbled his words or got confused would be swiftly put right by Pa, who knew more about Catholic ceremonies than most of them – present company excepted!
I would very much like to thank Dom Anthony for being with us today and thank you also to all of you who have joined the family here to celebrate my father’s life.
From an early childhood that lacked a normal family environment he went on to adopt two other families as his own. Firstly he joined the Benedictine community at Worth Abbey as a young schoolboy, then Downside where he made numerous friends both among the boys and the monks. This became a life long association with the school and monastery that he truly loved and supported all his life.
Secondly he joined the Irish Guards family and he was a proud and staunch Mick, almost never missing a regimental dinner or a St Patrick’s Day parade. It was a source of great pride for him, and the Brigade tie would be routinely packed in his suitcase wherever he went, just in case there was an invitation to drinks at an embassy or dinner at the Captain’s table on the ship or perhaps lunch at the Melbourne Club.
He might have made a terrific monk. He would have become a high ranking army officer. But as great as those families were, he embarked on creating his own and for this he needed a miracle. He needed a girl who would see past the mustache and forgive him for his eccentric, Victorian views, his total disinterest in sport and his appreciation of music and art rarely venturing outside the religious. And his miracle was Annette Webb, the greatest thing that ever happened to him and his life long love and companion.
Together they brought up their six children in a loving and secure family, his proudest achievement. He sacrificed a great deal to educate us all at Woldingham and Downside but saw it as his most important gift.
He was a very academic pupil at school, but a self-confessed scrum fairy. He must, however, have been quite tough to get into the Marines, and tougher still to leave them and win a unique double commission into the Irish Guards. He still kept lots of friends from the Marines, two of my favourites being John Lovell and Lewis Dixon Brown who were always staying with us.
He was never much interested in joining a corporate business and started his own firm, Luncheon Vouchers, as soon as he could. This had the making of, and indeed became one of the most profitable companies in Britain, but he was bought out too early by his main suppliers. There followed Spic n Span, and property investments, and then years later, when most of his friends were retiring, he found himself in the unlikely role of Chairman of my video games company, keeping us straight and seeing the company through to floatation on the London Stock Exchange, of which he was immensely proud.
He always added to the jollity of the office and I remember on one occasion telling him that I was going to see a pop group called Duran Duran to negotiate some music rights. He volunteered to join the meeting, so we agreed to meet the following week in their office reception. When I got there, I found the blonde receptionist gazing across the room, her mouth slightly open. I followed the direction of her gaze, and there was Pa, pinstripe suit, Brigade tie, stiff white collar, furled umbrella and of course, wearing a bowler hat.
This was, of course, because he was a member of the finest breed of Englishman. A practitioner of a bygone elegant culture. Loyal, unbendingly honest, always immaculately turned out, courteous, generous and thoughtful to others. These men made our country and many of them, too many, defended it and never returned. The gap they left was filled by the substandard sort of individuals whose ideas and loose morals left people like my father almost dispossessed. But he never succumbed to it, and carried on in exactly the same manner as he always had, and that took more strength than you might imagine.
In many fields he was an early version of Google. His general knowledge was vast, with specialist subjects in the railway system, military history and of course the Catholic Church. He adored film, theatre and television. He read two or three books a week, and wrote a large number of letters to all sorts of people, every one of which had to be read and approved by Ma. We children would all receive ‘pastorals’ which were wonderfully written and then finally he embarked on a labour of love, writing the biography of Father Dolly, entitled ‘The Guardsman Monk’.
His legacy fills half this church. His 90th Birthday party was held in a hotel last Christmas and 64 close members of the family celebrated him, his life and his achievements. It was marvelous that Dom Anthony was able to celebrate mass for us all and we owe Justin a debt of gratitude for having the idea to have the party, as it proved to be a fitting tribute and a perfect celebration of the final chapter of a life well lived.
Pa only had about two songs he would ever launch into, one which had the line: ‘Oh the French girls have got something the others have not got!’ but we never heard the next line because it always made him burst into merry peels of laughter.
The other was some old wartime song; he used to sing it softly: ‘Old soldiers never die, they only fade a way….’
And on the 11th August at 4.30pm, that’s exactly what he did.
This page last updated Copyright © 2002-2006 Bob Rothwell. 2007-2018 Charles Beck.